Monday, October 27, 2014

Just Try To Keep Up With This New Nonagenarian

[I hope you will indulge me as my family celebrates my mother's 90th birthday. She's an incredible individual, and not just because she's my mother. - SMC]

Lorraine "Ma FAST" Morong
At the Town Hall on Saturday, October 18, 2014, long-time Madbury citizen Lorraine Morong celebrated her 90th birthday, with hundreds of friends and family from near and far. The event may have been this New Hampshire town’s most festive event of the year, second only to Madbury Day, its annual festival.

This year also marks Lorraine’s fiftieth year living in Madbury, NH. When in 1964 the Morongs moved there, the town had little in the way of community services, with its population then of about 700. No municipal center. Other than one part-time volunteer, no police department. No school. No library. No industry. The only agricultural enterprise of note was the Elliott Greenhouses which produced roses wholesale for metropolitan centers across the country. Other than a hardware store on Route 108, no commerce. Schooling, employment, marketing – everything was done outside of Madbury. The only activity that Madbury residents all had in common was that they slept there. In fifty years, the town has grown to 1700 and now boasts a school, emergency services departments, other facilities, and several small businesses, but has retained its rural atmosphere.

By no means has Lorraine transformed the town single-handedly (the town is full of civic-minded souls), but she’s had her hand in a number of projects, in particular the establishment of the Madbury Public Library in 2000 and the assignment of Madbury’s new zip code in 2004. Her dedication to the First Aid & Stabilization Team earned her the name of “Ma FAST.” 

Lorraine has been the news correspondent for the town almost since she arrived, for the Portsmouth Herald, the Tri-Town Transcript, and most recently for Foster’s Daily Democrat. As correspondent, she attends meetings of the Board of Selectmen, the Planning Board, and other municipal offices and community organizations. Her personal collection of journalism archives frequently provides newcomers with an important foundation of recent town history in community concerns. She has also sat as an alternate on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and continues to be active with the Madbury Community Club.

Husband Bill, who passed away in 1991, was also involved in town affairs, including membership on the valuable Water Resources Board; Madbury provides the City of Portsmouth, NH, with most of its municipal water supply.

Just a few of us Morongs - 4 generations
The Town Hall was bursting at the seams with well-wishers from 1 to 93 years of age, from every walk of Lorraine’s life. A fair sample of Madbury’s population rubbed shoulders with denizens of Muscongus Island (Lorraine’s summer home in mid-coast Maine, where she still paddles her own canoe - er, rows her own dinghy - see evidence below) and multitudes of Lorraine’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, to say nothing of cousins and long-time friends. Folks came from Virginia, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and other far-flung locales to celebrate this dynamo known as Lorraine.

Denise Shames, former resident, noted that of the original four Vestal Virgins in ethereal robes who graced Madbury’s Bicentennial pageant in 1968, only two remained, she and Lorraine. The other two - more Madbury icons - were Denise’s mother Elizabeth and Joan Schreiber, both of whom were close friends of Lorraine. Denise suggested that it may be time to reenact the pageant; Madbury’s 250th anniversary comes up in 2018, only four short years away. Maybe Lorraine and Denise can reprise their old roles.

Joan Schreiber’s son Kurt gave Lorraine a small essay he prepared, in part of which he commented that if he was ever concerned as to the whereabouts of his mother, he could usually find her whispering with Lorraine in the back row of a meeting, conniving on strategy over one or another current concern of town or state political import.

Live music by Castlebay filled in the spaces among the celebrants. Castlebay’s husband-&-wife team Fred Gosbee and Julia Lane of Round Pond, ME, specialize in Celtic, medieval, and maritime music with harp, fiddle, flute, and voice. Puppeteer Nancy Sander of Salisbury, MA, glided among the guests with a giant butterfly which kissed children and adults alike with its fuzzy pipe-cleaner nose, when she wasn’t enchanting the same audience with puppet shows. Nancy’s 15-foot Chinese dragon wended her way through the crowd several times (I believe it was a girl dragon: she had pink flowers on her nose), bumping her horns against the ceiling amiably, and dancing around the building. Balloon-artist Beth Booth of Lee, NH, proved popular, too, creating colorful creatures and innovative headdresses to everyone’s delight. 

The Madbury Community Club and members of Friends of the Madbury Library collaborated with Lorraine’s son Duffy on food preparation, service, and clean-up. Duffy also prepared many of the sandwiches and other treats. Granddaughter Amy made both chocolate and vanilla 2-layer cakes with sugar-screened photographs of Lorraine (into which images no one wanted to cut!). Everyone raved about the delicious quality of these excellent cakes, a most welcome respite from the usual insipid and greasy commercial products.

Lorraine insisted on no gifts for herself, but requested that anyone so inclined should make a donation to the Friends of the Madbury Library. Most attendees have done so, increasing the Friends’ treasury significantly. Donations continue to arrive via the postal service, from many who couldn’t attend.

“A good time was had by all” is a paltry description of the bustling, magical cheer that pervaded the celebration of a woman whose friendship, practical good sense, bonhomie, and wisdom has graced us all. To Lorraine, in the Irish Gaelic: “Sláinte!” - “Good health!” - for many more years! 

Mark your calendars for the 100th!  Lorraine has!

Lorraine at Muscongus Island, August 2013 (compass heading: Year 2024)

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