American Optical History
In Memory Of...

Seaver Rice


Taken from The Southbridge News (Died Feb 21, 1988)

Southbridge – Seaver M. Rice, 95, of 150 Main St. died Sunday in the Providence House Nursing Home where he had been a patient.

Mr. Rice was generally acknowledged as Southbridge’s most well known resident.

Not only was he a popular weekly newspaper columnist for The News for many years, but Mr. Rice was also active in community and civic groups and was a prominent leader among veterans posts for many years.

A World War I veteran, he served as a sergeant in the First Division, 1st Engineer Battalion (The Big Red One) and was among the first contingents to enter the trenches in France in October 1917.  He participated in five separate battles in France and Germany.


He leaves a nephew, Charles W. Rice of Wrentham; two nieces, Laura R. Kelly and Judith R. Vandergriff, both of Wellesley; 10 grandnieces and grandnephews, including Laura Vandergriff and her husband, Steve Sanger of Kittery Point, Maine, Lynn Vandergriff of Millersville, Md., and James Vandergriff of Annapolis, Md.; a great-grandniece and a great-grandnephew.

Born in Saranac Lake, N.Y., he was the son of Walter and Laura (Miller) Rice.  He was a graduate of Dean Academy, Franklin, class of 1912, and was a Southbridge resident for 73 years.

Mr. Rice was the first commander of American Legion Post 31, a post he assumed in 19191, and is also credited as the founder and first president of the Southbridge Veterans Council.  He also held the first presidency of the Wellsworth Athletic Association at American Optical Corp., where he was employed for 43 years in the personnel office.

He served the town in many capacities.  He was a Southbridge Historical Society member for 17 years and on the Jacob Edwards Library Commission for 12 years.  He was a member of the Board of Registrars for eight years and was chairman of the town’s Precinct Voting Committee.  He also served more than 50 years as a member and chairman of the Republican Town Committee.

Mr. Rice was superintendent of Oak Ridge Cemetery for 19 years, retiring from the post in 1967.  He once recalled that Oak Ridge was started in 1798 with one acre of land donated by Col. Benjamin Freeman and that 38 Revolutionary War soldiers, among veterans from all wars, are buried there.

Last Surviving Member

He was the last surviving member of “The Thirteen Club,” an organization comprised of 13 local veterans of World War I.  With the death of Howard W. Boal recently, Mr. Rice became the last member of the club.  He was a communicant of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and a former vestryman of the church.  He was a member of the Edmund Rice Association.

One of the accomplishments he was most proud of was being a member of the Worcester County Soccer Association team, which toured England in 1926, playing exhibition matches.  An exceptional athlete, he played baseball, basketball and soccer.

Honors came with frequency through the years for Mr. Rice.  He was recipient of a gold life membership in the American Legion in 1961 and in 1968 was named as recipient of the VFW citizenship award.  In 1977, he was honored for community leadership by Franco-American Veterans Post 29.  He was given a presidential citation, signed by President Jimmy Carter.  The same year, he was presented a citation during the Fourth of July celebration, in recognition of his community contributions.

Mr. Rice’s boyhood was spent in Saranac Lake, and in his newspaper writings, he often remembered the summer visitors who came there, especially Mark Twain, who rented a summer cottage there in 1901.  Writing had long been part of Mr. Rice’s life.  In 1923, he spent some time as a night reporter for The Evening Gazette.  In 1974, he joined The News, a daily newspaper based in Southbridge, as a weekly columnist.  He has had two books published of his writings, the first titled “Along the Quinebaug” and the second, “The Apple Butter Winter.”

Memorable Day

Another memorable day in his life occurred Feb. 9, 1984, when he attended Seaver M. Rice Day in Saranac Lake.

In 1910, Mr. Rice left Saranac Lake to attend Dean Academy, where he attended school for two years.  After graduation from Dean, later to become Dean Junior College, he worked in North Attleboro for three years when he went to work for AO.  His American Optical career spanned 43 years.

Last summer, Mr. Rice took part in an anniversary reunion at Dean, and during a recent interview at the college, reflected on his life.

Writing Influenced

“I am glad I have lived most of my life here in New England, in the town of Southbridge, I’m glad to tell anyone.”

Mr. Rice’s favorite pastime in retirement became the daily walks downtown in the Southbridge business district where he passed the time of day with local residents.  He was often seen on a stool at the counter at Friendly Restaurant and especially enjoyed talking about old-time baseball teams and watching such greats as Babe Ruth and Christy Mathewson play ball.

His writings, he said, were influenced by the late William J. Henry, a Southbridge native who lost his vision as a young man and who later became on of Worcester County’s most respected journalists.

Jan Whitney Recalls her Friendship with Seaver

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Dick Whitney August 2002

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