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Boston Post Cane

Kennebec Journal, Augusta, Maine


June 13, 2011

A life full of courage, independence and often joy

Happy 100th, Antoinette Fleury

BY WENDELL SCOTT, Correspondent

WINTHROP -- Eighty-three years later, she recalls the date exactly.

It was June 21, 1928. Antoinette Larochelle and two sisters left their home in Quebec
to start new lives in a land of opportunity: Winthrop, Maine.

Antoinette was only 17 and didn't speak English, but soon found a job at Carleton
Woolen Mill, finishing blankets.

"They loved me because I was quick and not lazy," she said in an interview
recently, adding: "If you were quick, they would speed up the machine."

She graduated from blankets to woolen cloth. The pay was $13 for a 54-hour week.

Antoinette was happy to have the work.

"In Quebec, you could only be a maid or a teacher," she says.

Rent cost the sisters $5 a month, and they sent a portion of their earnings back home
to help support their parents and eight siblings who remained in Quebec.

At church, Antoinette met an altar boy named Robert Fleury.

"I had an eye on him," she remembers with a smile. "He was a good-looking
man and very, very smart."

They married in 1932. Two children followed over the next eight years.

Before there was a word for it, Antoinette quit to become a stay-at-home mom. After the
kids were older, she went back to the mill and worked there until she was 62.

Winthrop was a different town then, she recalls: Main Street was a busy place, with lots
of grocery stores. There was a movie theater.

"I used to love to go to movies," she says.

And there was the train station, where Antoinette and her sisters could catch the train bound
for Quebec to visit their family.

All that is gone now -- the mill, the stores, the theater, the train. And Robert Fleury
passed away in 1989.

Antoinette Fleury, however, lives on.

She's somewhat frail, but in spirit she's independent and courageous -- and her mind
maintains an iron grip on memories and dates.

April 28, 1940, for example, was the date she became an American citizen.

The family acquired its first car in 1959. In 1960, the first television followed.

This past Thursday -- June 9, 2011 -- Antoinette Fleury celebrated her 100th birthday. She
lives at home, and although she has help with shopping and some housekeeping, she cooks and
cleans for herself.

"I have a good appetite," she says, "And I love dessert."

"But sometimes I have a TV dinner," she confesses.

To pass the time she watches television.

"Dancing with the Stars" is a favorite, although she finds programming in general
is "not so good now."

She especially enjoys the repeats of "The Lawrence Welk Show" that are broadcast
occasionally on MPBN: "I still like his music. Everybody could sing and I loved that."

Antoinette offers her views on contemporary music: "They sing but they can't sing. They
holler. So that's no good."

Antoinette also reads the daily newspaper, and has been a subscriber "since 1932,"
she says, without missing a beat.

When asked if she has any advice for younger folk who aspire to live long lives, Antoinette
answers in a flash: "Behave yourself! Not to run around. No drinking."

She's grinning now.

"I don't drink," she says. "And you know what? I never smoke either. I'm a good

A few minutes later, she grows more reflective.

"I really don't know what to say about that -- the secret of it," she says.

Thursday afternoon, Winthrop Town Manager Jeff Woolston presented her with the town's Boston
Post Cane -- and a plaque to commemorate her status as Winthrop's oldest resident.

Kevin Cookson, chairman of the Town Council, also attended and paid his respects.

New England's tradition of bestowing a Boston Post Cane upon the oldest town resident extends
back to the early-20th century.

At one point, there were more than 400 Boston Post canes. Now only 14 of the original canes
are believed to exist. Winthrop's is one of these.

Wendell Scott is a Kennebec Journal correspondent who lives in Winthrop.