This article features the presentation of the Boston Post Cane to Dena Carbone December 22, 2011. Special thanks to PHS member Diann Robinson who championed reviving the tradition of presenting the cane to the town’s oldest resident and sharing Dena’s fascinating story.
Our cane has been sitting alone for about 6 years now and we now have found our new “Keeper of the Cane”. The Boston Post Cane was the idea of the publisher of the Boston Post back in 1909 as a gimmick to increase circulation of the paper. Mr. Grozier hired a cane maker to transform imported ebony from Africa into walking canes. One cane was sent to each of New England’s 431 towns and was to be presented to the oldest male resident of each town. In 1930 woman were declared eligible for the presentation. So many of the canes have been misplaced that replicas have been designed to be presented and the original locked up. The Town of Plaistow has it’s displayed at the Historical Society.
Some of the recipients of the cane were, Emma Johnson, in 1984 Mrs. Bernice Davis, Mrs. Ottilee Davis, Mr. John Maddox. Our last recipient was Mr. Charles Wheeler who held it from 1999 until halfway 2005.
The passage of the cane is a tradition we want to continue to honor all those citizens who have persevered and helped if even a small way to make Plaistow’s small town charm and a wonderful place to call home. We honor you and wish you well as the “New Keeper of the Boston Post Cane” for many years to come.
Dena DiPietro Carbone was born in Bisegna, Italy in 1913 and emigrated with her parents and siblings to Haverhill MA in 1916 after a devastating earthquake destroyed her family home and their many businesses. Her father died when Dena was young and to help her family, she left school and went to work. She worked at Nelson’s Department Store and then H. D. Green’s where she rose to office manager at the age of 19. At the same time she started her own dressmaking business evenings and weekends. To improve her skills, she attended Boston Girl’s Trade School after being awarded a grant from the city of Haverhill. In 1932 she completed her studies and continued her dressmaking business until 1968. Her clients included many from Bradford College with names such as the Rockerfellers, DuPonts, Bekins and several of Princess Grace’s bridesmaids. During that time she married Raymond Carbone and raised 2 sons, Gerry and Raymond.
After retiring from her dressmaking in the 1960’s, she answered an ad for a volunteer to teach sewing skills to low-income women enrolled in a Community Action Program. What began as a volunteer effort turned into her next career. She became an employee at Community Action and became the Executive Director in 1974. Some of her accomplishments included a program for battered women, organized a pre-school for Hispanic children, developed Tenants’ Associations, expanded the Summer Youth Work Program, established a low income coalition for a food commodity program and reorganized the area Council on Aging.
After retiring from Community Action, Dena decided to till a life long dream and in 1979 at the age of 66 entered the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA. In 1980 she became involved in the Greater Haverhill Arts Association and filled the role as activities director including organizing trips to Museums for people to expand their knowledge of the arts. Her own works began to receive recognition and she was to win many titles and honors in local exhibitions. At Northern Essex Community College, Dena would present topics as part of the Life Long Learning Program. A few of the topics included a six week course on China, its history, people, art and human rights and a course on three artists, Georgia O’Keefe, who continued to paint into her 90’S, Frieda Kahlo and Mary Cassatt. Dena also studied Spanish at Merrimack College and attended Bradford College’s summer session in San Miguel Allende, Mexico.
Dena has always been involved as a community activist; her skills have benefited the Upward Bound Program at Bradford College in the late 196O’s when she taught sewing to inner-city teens and helped them stage a fashion show of their own creation. Some of the organizations she has been involved with include the Soroptomists and has been a member for 60 years, the Women’s City Club, the Haverhill Business and Professional Women and the Holy Angels Women’s Guild.
Dena has been a resident of Plaistow for over 20 years. If you ask her for advice on life, she will tell you “Every day is golden, don’t waste it”. Dena may be 97 but she continues each and every day to be involved with her family, her Art, her gardens, her church and with whoever needs her help. We are most fortunate to have Dena Carbone in our life here in Plaistow.