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Lincoln centenarian Hattie Brown showered with cards

LINCOLN — Harriett “Hattie” Brown celebrated her 100th birthday on April 10.
“I’ve been here quite a while,” the Lincoln resident said, smiling, in a recent interview.
After a century of meeting and greeting, Brown knows so many people it would be impossible to throw a reasonable-size birthday party. So her granddaughter, Barbara Rainville, decided to throw her a card shower instead.
A week before Brown’s birthday, Rainville announced the shower in the Addison Independent and on Front Porch Forum. Her goal: 100 birthday cards.
Her grandmother received nearly twice that many.
“They’re everywhere,” Brown said as she talked with the Independent about her life.
An altar of sorts has been set up in her kitchen to hold all of those cards, with their images of birds, balloons, flowers, candles, puppies and butterflies. One card features a dancing Minnie Mouse. Some are pinned to the wall. Others are taped to the stovepipe.
Did she have help opening them all?
“Oh, yes,” Brown said. “My daughter (Pat) and my granddaughter (Barbara) helped me.”
Brown was born Harriett Purrington in Buel’s Gore, Vt., during the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. On the day she came into this world, Wilson was in Paris, negotiating the peace terms after World War I.
In Lincoln, during the great flood of 1927, she walked home from school in water that sometimes rose as high as her knees.
After attending Bristol High School and Teachers College in Johnson, she taught for more than three decades in local schools.
Brown and her husband, Fletcher, were also lay ministers and served as interim pastors of the Panton Church in the 1960s.
In her 60s she took up a part-time job as the Lincoln correspondent to the Addison Independent and didn’t retire from that until three decades later, when she was 94.
At 97, she retired from her job at Maple Landmark, the wooden products manufacturer founded by her grandson, Mike Rainville.
These days she stays active in part by going down the mountain to Elderly Services Inc.’s Project Independence in Middlebury three days a week.
Over the years she’s also found the time to write and publish four books of poetry.
Her poems recently inspired a group of Lincoln schoolchildren while they were making birthday cards for her, Barb Rainville said.
“She really enjoyed the hand-made cards, especially from the children,” Rainville said.
Brown even got cards from people she didn’t know. One well-wisher wrote, “If you’re going to make 100 you deserve a card.”
Though she didn’t have a traditional birthday party, Brown did have some cake and cheer during a recent community dinner at St. Ambrose Rectory in Bristol.
ONE-HUNDRED-SEVEN-YEAR-OLD Bristol resident Bill James welcomes longtime friend Hattie Brown to the “century club” earlier this month during the community dinner at St. Ambrose Rectory in Bristol.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Rainville
Remarkably, at 100, she was not the oldest person in the room that night.
Bristol resident Bill James, founder of the Old Farts Club, has her beat by more than seven years.
“She really did enjoy being with Bill at the dinner,” Rainville said. “They’ve been friends forever.”
Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindepenent.com.

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