ORLEANS — Every member of the board of selectmen came to honor Barbara P. White in her home at Jack Knife Point Aug. 1. Presiding from a comfortable chair, the 104-year-old welcomed them with grace as she accepted the Boston Post Cane, traditionally given to the town's oldest resident.
“We didn't want to live in Summit, N.J., so we came up here,” White said of a relationship with Orleans that became stronger in the 1940s, when she and her husband built the house in which she still lives.
“I want you to hold on to this and pass it on to me,” 70-year-old Selectmen Chairman Mark Mathison said as the board presented the cane last week. In 1909—just five years before White was born—the publisher of the Boston Post newspaper mailed hundreds of engraved canes to New England communities (except Connecticut and Vermont, according to The Boston Post Cane Information Center). Orleans still has its original cane, which will be returned for safekeeping to town hall.
Told that the local board is the only one on the Cape without a woman select person, White, who was born five years before women secured the right to vote, said, “We need to work on that.”
A citation accompanying the cane said White has “inspired pride and joy of living in many citizens of all ages” and invited the town to congratulate her on “her energy and joie de vivre.”
White was a gracious host, asking the selectmen where they lived in town and mentioning connections to their older relatives. She invited them to “come back anytime.”
“It's a lovely place,” she said of her home on The River. “I wouldn't change it for anything.” Daughter Mary Lyttle, who was on hand with husband David for the celebration, confirmed that her mother had remained in her house during this year's extended power outage. “I'm lucky to have five lovely children,” White said, “and they all like it here.”
Told that “inquiring minds want to know the secret of your longevity,” Barbara White said, “Inquiring minds. That's it.”