Orono celebrates Boston Post Cane holder’s 99th birthday

ORONO, Maine — Despite being separated by the coronavirus pandemic, Orono people still found a way this month to celebrate the 99th birthday of a longtime resident who has become part of the town’s history. 

Pauline “Polly” Butler is an Orono mainstay. She currently holds the town’s Boston Post Cane — a historic New England tradition of passing down an ebony cane to a town’s oldest living resident. 

Butler was born and raised on Union Street along the Penobscot River. She attended St. Mary’s School and had her first job at the Orono Public Library. For nearly 20 years, she worked with the food service department at Orono High School. 

Throughout her lifetime, Butler has watched the town grow as more families moved in and the downtown expanded. She raised her three children, Kevin, Kern and Jean-Marie in town, too, and made life-long friendships. 

Butler’s own grandmother, who lived to the age of 106, formerly held the Boston Post Cane title. 

These connections have grounded her to the community and on June 18 — Butler’s 99th birthday — people took part in the remote celebrations.

A birthday post for Butler from the town of Orono was shared more than 150 times across the social network. Below a photo of her standing with a birthday balloon, dozens of people commented with well-wishes or past memories with Butler. 

“Happy Birthday Polly. I was so lucky to live across the street from you growing up,” one commenter said. 

People reminisced about old times and other connections they made with Butler throughout the years. 

Kerry Garland has a lifetime worth of memories with the Butler family. Her mother Elaine Casey, better known as “Lainey,” and Polly were best friends for almost their entire lives.

The two families lived across the street from one another and spent much of their time together.

Butler was an avid cook and baker, and together, she and Casey loved baking birthday cakes for the kids and christmas treats. 

“She just was always there,” Garland said. Garland also helps care for Butler, who still lives independently. 

The pandemic hasn’t been easy on Butler — who is more home-bound than usual lately — but she’s leaning on the support from her neighborhood friends who check in with her regularly. 

That’s part of what Butler has always loved about Orono — the people are friendly and welcoming. “Anytime I need any help, I always know someone that I can call.”

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