Students design boards for elders

World War II Marine Corps veteran Bessie Linsott, anticipating her 100th birthday, is known at Crestwood Center in Milford as the “Cribbage Queen.”

Cribbage is a card game invented in the 1600s with the object of securing draws and discards until exactly 15 or 31 points are snagged. It is a game Linscott relishes. Opponents come and go, mostly in disgrace.

Linscott, a former Marine Corps PFC, competes with other cribbage aficionados in the center’s recreation room, a cozy enclave graced with a wall-sized mural of a colorful American flag.

More than a dozen players, along with staffers and visitors, gathered there on April 5 to witness the presentation to Crestwood Center of 18 custom-made cribbage boards. The makers were engineering students at Milford High School & Applied Technology Center, a few blocks away. The ATC class distributed the boards and inter-generational cribbage games soon raged.

“The gift of those boards made me feel like a very special person,” Linsott said. “I enjoyed so much playing with the students – they are sharp!”

Frank Xydias, teacher of engineering and design at Milford’s Applied Technology Center at the high school said the request for the game boards came from Steve Scannell. A former high-school teacher and coach, Scannell is an advisor to a friendship organization, the Young Kasamas, based at the high school.

Linette Davidson, recreation director at Crestwood, and Scannell founded the Young Kasamas – meaning “Friends” in Filipino – around seven years ago. Members socialize often with the citizens of the center on Crosby Street.

The laser-cut birch plywood cribbage boards bear mostly New Hampshire images. A finely detailed moose and an outline of the map of New Hampshire, along with a Boston Celtics logo, were deemed works of art by more than one player.

Xydias said the project required the use of some solid engineering principles. Science, technology and engineering, along with art and math – STEAM basics – were incorporated as projects were completed.

“The aspect of giving back to the community was also a powerful message to the students,” said Xydias. “Giving back encourages integrity, compassion and good feelings.”

Davidson agreed. She said the experience of having the students come with such wonderful gifts was heartwarming.

“We strive to provide our guests with a full menu of activities,” said Davidson. “This one will be long appreciated.”

The seniors played one more game of cribbage with the students before the young engineers returned to the high school.

Carol Balcom, a 1962 graduate of Milford High School and a Nashua native, took a turn. She has a master’s degree in library sciences but none as a cribbage master.

“I was looking at the artwork, as my mother was a self-taught artist,” Balcom said. “What I know about cribbage you could put in your eye.”