Sunday, June 23, 2013, the borough of Elverson honored centenarian Margretta Fries with the presentation of a special cane, hereby starting a new tradition for the borough modeled after a quaint New England historical event known as “The Boston Post Cane.”
A proclamation was also issued by Mayor Arleigh Hegarty marking her 100th birthday June 25, 2013 as Margretta Fries Day in Elverson. She received a framed certificate with her name (a duplicate will hang in the borough hall).
Jody Phillips, a new member of Elverson’s Historical Commission and a former New England newspaper editor, gathered this information from various internet sources:
The “Boston Post Cane” tradition was established by the Boston Post Newspaper in 1909 to honor the oldest resident in each of 431 New England towns. The canes belonged to the towns, not the recipients, Upon said recipients moving or passing away the cane was to be transferred to the next oldest resident .Black with a collar and top engraved with the name of the town, the cane applied these conditions to the holder: they must be at least 90 years old and have maintained a home in the town for a minimum of the last 20 years. The newspaper folded 50 years later but the tradition lives on. At one point, only 150 of the canes were accounted for but slowly they have been reappearing – in the basement closet of an old town hall, in a trunk in someone’s attic, etc. Surely some have been sold. The efforts to retrieve as many original canes as possible is ongoing.
The Elverson Historical Commission liked the idea, so they incorporated it as a tradition they would like to adopt. Jody Phillips said, “The Elverson Cane will be black with a brass top engraved and stating ‘Presented to the oldest citizen of Elverson Borough, PA by the Elverson Historical Commission.’”
Fries was born in and has resided in her Elverson home her entire life. Three generations have resided in the same home and were born there. Her daughter Bets said, “She currently lives there alone with various angels coming in every day.”
Fries has three children: two sons, Frank Fries and Sonny Fries, and a daughter, Bets Witwer. She also has five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Her husband Harry passed away in 1987.
She is well known in the community with many friends. Sunday over 50 people showed up for her party and the cane presentation that was held in the United Methodist Church social hall at 32 E. Main St. Over 60 cards have already arrived along with many floral tributes and gifts.
After she gained her composure and said a few words the people were drawn to her. She knew them all and reminisced with them as they approached her. Her daughter said she later remarked, “I’m ready for another one.”
One of many stories that can be found in a local history book, “History of Our Community Elverson, PA” written by local historian Bob Patry, contains this anecdote: “A carload of cows were driven up Rt. 23 and dropped off in a pasture. The mischievous Margretta and a girlfriend took the slats off the fence and used it as a seesaw. You can guess what happened!”
Her personality is warm and adventurous. She was the church organist and choir director as well as serving on many local committees to serve the borough.
Bets said, “This was a joyous occasion for her and the family. “
Margretta, when asked to what she attributed her long life, said, “I attribute it to God, and I have been blessed.” She has a strong faith and reads her bible every day.
Her daughter revealed a different side of her.
“She is a great fan of Jeff Gordon of NASCAR fame,” Bets said. “Every Sunday afternoon she watches the races. No matter who stops by, she tells them, ‘Well, it is time for the races,’ and she turns on the TV.” This is an example of her zeal for life and adventure.