Boardman marks 100th birthday

MIDDLEBURY — Frances Boardman was in charge of baking the cake for just about every one of her family members’ birthdays until a fall — ironically, in the kitchen — forced her to retire her pots and pans around two years ago.

Well, Boardman will be celebrating her own birthday on Monday, Nov. 14, and someone else is in charge of the cake.

And they’d better bring a lot of candles.

Boardman, a lifelong Cornwall resident, will be marking her 100th birthday at her current home at Helen Porter Healthcare and Rehabilitation. Friends and family from throughout the county will be able to help her celebrate, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

People who attend will have to speak up a bit because of Frances’s hearing, but they will be rewarded with some priceless anecdotes and advice from a lady still legendary in Cornwall for her hospitality — and donuts.

“Eat the right food, dress comfortably in the winter and keep on moving,” Boardman said, when asked for the secrets to her longevity.

Frances Boardman was born on Nov. 14, 1911, at her family’s farmhouse off Route 30. President William Howard Taft was in the White House. World War I was still three years off. The theft of the Mona Lisa was discovered at the Louvre. Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire. Sun Yat-sen was elected the first provisional president of the Republic of China.

Boardman’s earliest memories included riding in her dad’s Model-T Ford, a 1913 version, she believes. It was one of the first such vehicles in Cornwall. She and her four sisters and one brother enjoyed the vehicle a great deal, she recalled.

Growing up, Frances and her siblings helped out on the family’s small dairy farm. The family also grew such crops as potatoes and onions. She recalled her dad, Loyal Towle, drying and selling the onions, and selling other vegetables to supplement the household income.

The Towle children attended a one-room schoolhouse in Cornwall, and the teacher happened to be their aunt. Frances recalled walking to school during the warm months and riding their by horse-drawn sleigh during the winter.

“The schoolhouse had an iron woodstove,” Boardman recalled. “The teacher washed potatoes and put them on the stove with a tin over the top, so they would cook faster.”

Frances Towle and Charles Boardman met at a Cornwall Grange meeting prior to the outbreak of World War II and married in the mid-1940s. They have been married for more than 65 years. Charles, 96, is still able to live in their West Cornwall home with the help of their daughter, Mary Jane (a longtime Bristol Elementary School teacher), and her husband, Mike Broughton.

Cooking became Boardman’s favorite pastime, a talent she shared with the entire community. Frances and her sister Zita worked together as cooks for more than 20 years at the Cornwall school, preparing great meals for the kids.

“They knew what every student liked and what they didn’t like,” Mike Broughton said.

Once she retired from school, Frances continued to cook at home, whipping up pot roasts, pork roasts, baked beans and an assortment of cookies, jams and jellies.

A hip injury a few years ago unfortunately reduced her mobility, to the extent that she now resides at Helen Porter. But she remains active, making her own bed, moving about and paying close attention to her beloved Boston Red Sox. Frances’s room is adorned with some Red Sox memorabilia. She watches rebroadcasts of night games during the next morning, as she can’t stay up late enough to watch them live. She makes sure her television is permanently dialed into the Red Sox network during the entire baseball season.

“I’ve hung in there with them,” she said of her favorite team that, until recently, went through quite a championship drought. The team has won seven World Series, and Frances has been alive for all but one of them (1903).

Along with staying on the move and eating well, Frances credits a fairly vice-free lifestyle for helping her live so long. She never smoked, and drank alcohol very rarely.

And she believes a long, happy marriage has also kept her happy and healthy.

“We lived together, and we didn’t fight,” she said of her husband.

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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