Many would think reaching the age of 103 would be enough reason to celebrate. Just imagine a lifetime experiencing everything from the Great Depression and the fall of the Soviet Union to technological advancement from radio to television and computers. Not to mention living through two World Wars, 18 presidents, and a moonwalk!
However, this year Lyme resident Fred Phillips has one more reason to celebrate his century-plus-three years accomplishment. The town awarded him the Boston Post Cane, designating him the community’s oldest living resident. He was presented with a certification of the honor by Lyme Selectman Rusty Keith and Chief of Police Shaun O’Keefe. The surprise presentation was particularly meaningful for Phillips, as Chief O’Keefe was once in the Boy Scout troop he led.
“I was very surprised to receive such an honor. After all, it’s not every day you’re rewarded for getting older,” says Fred. “It’s an honor to now be a part of the Boston Post Cane legacy, and it means a lot to know that my story will live on through this recognition. I’ve been very blessed to live a long, happy life and look forward to seeing what’s ahead. In my wildest dreams, I could have never imagined the events and advancements of the last century, let alone believed that I would live to be 103. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve the many blessings of my life, but I’m thankful for each and every one.”
The Boston Post Cane tradition began in 1909. Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post newspaper, sent canes to 700 New England towns with the instruction that the cane be passed to the oldest living citizen of the town. When that person died, then it was to be handed down to the next oldest person. The cane itself belongs to the town, not the person who receives it. In the beginning, the honor was for men only. In 1930, women became eligible to receive it too.
Born on January 18, 1915, Fred Phillips began his life in Osceola Mills, Pennsylvania, later moving to Tyrone, Pennsylvania when he started high school. He excelled in the classroom and was determined to pursue a career in aeronautical engineering. It was this passion that would lead him to New York University for his bachelor’s degree and to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he completed his master’s. His career began in the middle of World War II while working for a company designing and building bombers for the military.
“From a young age I knew I wanted to have a career in aviation,” says Fred. “My career allowed my childhood dreams to come true, and I had the opportunity to live and work in remarkable places. Looking back on history, in my opinion, flight is possibly one of the most impressive advancements in technology we have experienced. It helped shape how the world connects and set precedents in how technology continues to advance today.”
Today, Fred is a resident at Wheelock Terrace
Assisted Living. When asked about his secret to a long life, he laughs and simply credits luck, as he’s enjoyed good health for most of his life and never picked up any bad habits. While he may not be able to pass along the secret to his longevity, he hopes to impart the importance of education for younger generations. He believes that with a good education, you can go anywhere, be anything you want to be, and most importantly, you’ll be better equipped to help others.