ROCKPORT — At 101 years of age, Annie May Rankin Young Spirio knows a few stories, and on May 15, as the Town of Rockport honored her as its most revered elder, she, in turn, regaled the room with tales of living a long and rich life in the area. As former head nurse, and chief administrator, at the Camden Community Hospital, she knows the community inside and out.
And as a descendant of Austin and Edna Rankin, who established Rankin’s Hardware years ago, she knows just how the community was built.
Rockport Select Board Chairman Ken McKinley, Town Clerk Linda Greenlaw and Town Manager Rick Bates joined Annie May Rankin Young Spirio, along with her son, Robert, and daughter Nancy, in the living room of their Rockport home to present her with the town’s Boston Post Cane.
“She was very surprised and pleased,” said her daughter, Judith, later in the day, after the cupcakes from Laugh Loud Smile Big store in Rockport had been consumed, and the festivities were winding down.
Presenting the Boston Post Cane to the oldest citizen of a town is a tradition now of many Maine communities. The legacy of the gold-headed Boston Post Cane and its presentation to the oldest resident of a New England town was conceived by a publisher of the Boston Post daily with an eye toward increasing circulation in 1909.
On Aug. 2, 1909, Edwin A. Grozier, publisher of the Boston Post, forwarded to the selectmen in 700 New England towns a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest male citizen of the town, to be used by him as long as he lived, or moved from the town. The custom was expanded to include a community's oldest woman in 1930.
In 2016, Rockport presented the cane to Granville Ames. Now, it is Annie May Rankin Young Spirio’s turn to be honored.
She was born Jan. 30, 1918, and until the age of 10, she went to a one-room school in Youngtown, in Lincolnville.
Then, her parents moved to Union Street, in Camden, where the store was established. In 1935, she graduated from Camden High School, and set off for Lynn, Massachusetts, to complete her nursing degree at the Lynn Hospital of Nursing. (Her daughter, also named Annie May, graduated with a nursing degree from the same hospital many years later).
Annie May the Elder returned to Rockport and in 1940, she married Robert Young. They settled into Rockport, buying the corner property of routes 90 and 1 in 1945, and created a home in a tidy cape house, raising five children (Judith, Nancy, Annie May, Robert and Ronald) and working.
In 1963, Robert Young died and Annie May married Angelo Spirio. They remained at the Rockport house, and it wasn’t until 2002 that she decided to move into her son’s home, also in Rockport.
Today, Annie May Rankin Young Spirio has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and she is surrounded by family. She is a Rockport treasure, and remembers many of those who helped knit the fabric that holds the small town together.