Williamstown's oldest resident Pauline Piper given fabled cane


WILLIAMSTOWN -- She says it's her "prairie genes." Her daughter thinks it's all of that swimming she used to do.

No matter what the secret, Pauline Piper, at 105 years old, was celebrated at Sweet Brook of Williamstown nursing home on Monday as Williamstown's oldest resident.

Piper was given the ceremonial Boston Post Cane, of which many were given to communities throughout New England so they could honor their oldest citizens. Nearly 100 years later, few Boston Post canes have survived, but the Williamstown Council on Aging has unearthed its own and loaned it to Piper.

Born in 1909 -- the year the first pilot navigated a plane over the English Channel -- Piper has lived a long life dedicated to community engagement and charity, her daughter, Margy O'Connor, said on Monday.

Piper was born in Brooklyn but raised on the prairies of Kansas during the depths of the Great Depression.

"My mother was the daughter of a pioneer," O'Connor said.

She graduated from the University of Witchita before eventually raising a family of three children in Baltimore.

Piper has lived in Williamstown, in close proximity to her daughter, since 2001.

"She's always been a community volunteer," O'Connor said. "She's always been interested in education."

Piper is so interested in education that she achieved a master's degree at John Hopkins University in her early 70s, O'Connor said. For many years, she also taught remedial English classes.

Piper was lucky to receive the cane after it had been missing for several decades -- only to be found in a Williamstown woman's attic in 2001.

"Now, we're passing it on," said Brian O'Grady, director of the Council on Aging.

As part of the celebration Monday, Piper's name also was inscribed on a plaque of Boston Post Cane recipients.

Attendees at the event spoke of how Piper encouraged them to live long into their later years.

According to Sweet Brook staff, Piper is well-known in the community for her commitment to exercise.

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