Arthur J. Haight awarded Boston Post Cane

Arthur J. Haight, a Navy veteran of World War II and a retired machinist, displays the proclamation recognizing him as Merrimack’s oldest resident and honored holder of the Boston Post Cane as presented at the inaugural celebration of Merrimack’s 275th anniversary.

Arthur J. Haight, 94, amid family members, friends and dignitaries, was awarded on April 9 at Abbie Griffith Park the Boston Post Cane, a finely crafted walking stick with a golden pommel whose gifting to him as the town’s oldest resident took place at the inaugural celebration of Merrimack’s 275th anniversary.

The passing of the cane continues a tradition founded in 1909 when the owner of the Boston Post newspaper distributed 700 inscribed canes to officials of 700 New England towns. They were earmarked as honors for each town’s oldest resident. The publicity move endures.

Haight, a Navy veteran and Seabees Carpenter Mate Third Class, joined the military at age 17 with his mother’s permission. Soon, he was in Japan providing logistical support and material installations with the U.S. Marines on the island of Okinawa.

“When the war ended, they hollered and shot into the air,” Haight said. “You had to have your helmet on, in case some of those bullets came down.”

The Battle of Okinawa, April 1 through June 22, 1945, is documented as the last major battle of World War II. Haight’s Bronze Star for his role on the island is a proud memento at his home, one shared with his son, Robert Haight, an Air Force veteran of Vietnam.

Memories of Haight’s time on Okinawa are of mud, mud, mud. He said he also will never forget another incident, “an airplane strafing us.” The plane overhead? “They shot down, it crashed into the mountain,” he added. He dove under a truck.

“When I came out, I noticed the sign, ‘No Smoking within 75 Feet.'” said Haight. “I’d sheltered under an ammo truck!”

Town Council Chairman Thomas Koenig read an embossed citation to Haight and passed to him the polished Boston Post Cane, mounted for display. Several state and town dignitaries read related proclamations.

Haight, a retired machinist, extended thanks to all who made his day special. Among them were Don Johnson, of Windham, and Dan Morin, of North Andover, Massachusetts. They are former machinist students of Haight’s who have cherished their mentor since the late 1970s.

Information on the Boston Post Cane presentation or other 275th anniversary events can be had by calling Matt Casparius, director of Merrimack Parks and Recreation at 603-882-1046.