TREMONT — A week shy of her 96th birthday, Harriet Higgins received the Boston Post Cane from the town, and she doesn’t plan to give it up for at least another 10 years.
During their regular meeting of the Board of Selectmen Monday, chair Kevin Buck presented the cane to Higgins. After advertising in the newspaper and research by the Tremont Historical Society, Higgins is believed to be the town’s oldest resident.
Within a case at the Town Office is the original Boston Post Cane, sent from the newspaper to New England towns. It was first presented to Tremont resident John B. Mitchell on Aug. 31, 1909. He died the following May at the age of 85. Cane recipients hold the honor and a duplicate cane until they die or move from the town, at which time it is returned to the town.
Elwood Herbert Banfill was the most recent recipient before Higgins. He received the honor in 2010 and died in 2014.
The Tremont Historical Society was instrumental in reviving this tradition. From records gathered, there have been at least 13 other recipients of the Boston Post Cane in Tremont since the first one was issued in 1909, but there appears to be a few names missing.
Originally, the canes could only be presented to men because they were the only citizens allowed to vote. Tremont made their own rules and gave the cane to a woman in 1918, the year before women were given the right to vote.
When Buck announced Higgins’ receipt of the award and cane for oldest resident of Tremont, she simply quipped, “You mean there’s nobody older than I am?”
Higgins was born in Tremont, met her husband in Tremont and raised her six children in Tremont. She surrounded by multiple generations during the cane presentation. Members of her family had brought her to the selectmen meeting under the guise that her grandson, Fire Chief Keith Higgins, was to receive an award.
Predeceased by her husband, Leonard ‘Hap’ Higgins, and her eldest child, Higgins has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, most of whom live within an hour of her.
At nearly 96, there are a few things that keep Higgins moving through the years, according to her daughter, Linda Fernandez.
“She looks forward to Tuesdays to help run bingo in Southwest Harbor,” said Fernandez. “Even in a snow blizzard she’s chomping at the bit, hoping the roads are clear to get her there.”
For the weekly event, Higgins puts together sandwiches to bring for the bingo players. She gets up early to get ready and typically takes egg salad to the game, according to Fernandez. Higgins is also known for the pickles she makes and shares with family and friends.
“The ones they like the best are her sour, sour pickles,” said Fernandez, adding she also makes a great bread and butter pickle.
An avid pie maker for much of her life, Higgins’ favorite food is donuts. She is often the first at the door with her purse and coat when someone is going somewhere, said Fernandez. One of her favorite things to do is go shopping.
While the family hosted a large celebration last year for Higgins’ 95th birthday, she has been asking about a party this year.
This Sunday from 2-5 p.m. there will be a birthday celebration for Higgins at the Head of the Harbor Church, also known as the Tremont Congregational Church, in Tremont. The event is open to the public.