Wilton woman dies at age 106
p>WILTON – Polly Kenick was one of those truly amazing people. At more than 100 years old, she was still thinking about, and caring for, other people – making Christmas gift bags for Meals on Wheels, knitting sweaters and booties for premature babies, visiting schools to read to students.
"She was always doing for other people," said her longtime Lyndeborough friend Nadine Preftakes. "She was such a loving person. No matter how old she was, she connected with everyone. She had a gift that was unique." Kenick died Monday, May 2, at 106, at Edgewater Estates, at home with her family.
Kenick was born in Nashua in 1909, graduated from Nashua High School and went on to train as a nurse at Exeter Hospital in 1930. A few years ago, she gave the hospital her student uniform for its archives. A year after she graduated, she married Joe Kenick, and moved from the urban setting of Nashua to a Polish farming community and a totally different life.
"She learned to cook and can and care for the animals," her daughter Lois Kenick said. "But she never learned to milk a cow because, she said, then she’d have to do it." "In those days," Kenick recalled in a 2004 interview, "married women could not work as nurses. I did private duty work, which I hated, and then district work, which I loved, especially the babies." "District work" is now the Visiting Nursing Association. She also worked in the infirmary at Phillips Exeter Academy, where she noticed that leg casts don’t cover toes.
"She adapted a sock pattern and made ‘toe socks’ for injured hockey players," Lois Kenick said. "They were in the school colors and became a badge of honor. Everybody wanted one."
Knitting and crocheting were two of Kenick’s favorite pastimes. In addition to the sweater sets for preemies, she made hand towels for all of the Meals on Wheels recipients, crocheted with a loop to go over a doorknob. Toward the end when her hands were stiff, she made "bookworm" bookmarks for schools. "She started the sweater sets in memory of a grandchild who was born much too soon," Lois Kenick said. She gave them to several hospitals, including Monadnock and Elliot.
Kenick was also a "Pease Greeter," one of those seeing deployed servicemen and women off and returning from the Middle East. "She knit them helmet liners," Lois Kenick said. She made more than 100 of them.
During World War II, Kenick knit for the men overseas: sleeveless vests and trigger mittens. In 2008, as the town’s oldest resident, Kenick was presented the Boston Post Cane at a lively celebration at Nelson’s Candy, where she occasionally joined the music gathering as a pianist. It was noted that she and the cane were the same age.
Kenick retired from nursing in 1971 and lived off and on in Lyndeborough, where her two daughters, Lois and Ann Carlson, who now lives in South Carolina, were living. She was a member of the Improvement Society, creating things for the annual fair.
Kenick was a woman of strong opinions, which she stated firmly. She voted in all elections starting in 1932, when she voted for Herbert Hoover (the incumbent president lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt), but she said she might have missed an election or two during the Great Depression.
"She was raising her family then," Lois Kenick said. She was a lifelong Democrat and an active supporter of Hillary Clinton. She was unable to get out and campaign during the current primary season, however. She chose an absentee ballot last February for the first time. In 2014, she rode on the Democratic Committee’s Old Home Days parade float.
Kenick spent several years collecting her thoughts and memorabilia into a "sort of an autobiography," Lois Kenick said. "It never got finished because she was still living it." The memorabilia is still there "because she never threw anything away."
Kenick was special to a lot of people, especially youths; one of those youths was Devin McEntee, of Lyndeborough. "She lived a very long life," McEntee said. "I’ll miss her at the Apple Festivals, walking in with her and her chats about the old days. She was a very special lady. As much sadness as I feel, it was special to me."
Lois Kenick’s email announcing her mother’s passing to friends said it all: "Mum: A skilled compassionate nurse; A woman of faith; A woman of family; A good and caring neighbor."