Williamstown Honors Oldest Resident, 102, With Iconic Cane

Mar 7, 2018

A Williamstown woman was awarded the town’s Boston Post Cane Tuesday, cementing her status as the town’s oldest resident. 

“The town of Williamstown and the Williamstown council on aging recognize and honor Filomena Demo, born April 8th, 1916, as the recipient of the Boston Post Cane, representative of the eldest residents of the town of Williamstown, this day, March 6th, in the year of 2018," said Williamstown Council on Aging Director Brian O’Grady. "We celebrate your longevity. Your name will be inscribed on a plaque recognizing your life and the symbolic awarding of the Boston Post Cane. Congratulations.”

And with that, a unique Massachusetts tradition from the early 1900’s continued on into 2018. 

“The Boston Post newspaper gave out canes to many New England communities and I think every one in Massachusetts back around the turn of the 20th century, and the idea was that the cane would be presented to each municipality’s eldest citizen and then passed on as time went on,” explained O'Grady.

It’s quite a cane.

“I think it dates to 1909- the tip is gold, it’s African ebony wood,” said O’Grady.

Williamstown’s cane was missing for twenty years before it was rediscovered in an attic in 2001. Since that time, it’s been in the hands of thirteen recipients- all over the age of 100. Over his 18 years on the job, O’Grady has seen all kinds of reactions from holders of the cane.

“We’ve had people who slept through the award ceremony, we’ve had people who- there was one individual who broke down and cried because she didn’t think- she was 104, she didn’t think she should honored for living so long. There was a gentleman who looked at it and said, oh, that reminds me of something, and started swinging with like a baseball bat,” O'Grady said.

The ceremony Tuesday, held in the lobby of the Williamstown Commons Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, saw three generations of the Demo family proud to acknowledge Filomena’s accomplishment. Born in America to Italian immigrant parents, she spent her life in the Berkshires, barring a short return to Italy before the Second World War.

Her son, Sergio Demo, is 61. He lives in North Adams.

“We’re part of history now, and it feels great, you know?" said Sergio. "She’s the oldest of the old, and you have to respect that. She’s doing great for 102. She’s in good health.”

Sergio spoke to his mother to get to the heart of her historic health.

“How did you get to live so long to 102?” asked Sergio.

“I- well, I think- it’s pray,” responded Filomena.

“Prayer?” asked Sergio.

“Prayer, and thank god,” said Filomena.

“Yeah,” said Sergio.

“And my family," said Filomea. "And same thing.”

“And how about some good food?” asked Sergio.

“Yeah, sure,” Filomena laughed.