REMEMBERING ‘MR. SOUTHBRIDGE’
 

by  Jan Whitney
 

Reprinted (with permission) from The Southbridge News dated Friday, May 26, 1989

By Jan Whitney, a devoted friend of Southbridge legend and News columnist Seaver Rice, shares her memories of the man who touched the town so deeply that he was known as “Mr. Southbridge.”Seaver, a World War I veteran, wore his patriotism on his sleeve and we thought it would be especially appropriate to remember him now, as Memorial Day approaches.Seaver died on February 21, 1988. He was 95.

 
 

For some time now I’ve been thinking of writing about my dear old friend, Seaver Rice.
 

I was especially close to Seaver because for several years I devoted most of my mornings to him, driving him on his errands for food, to The News to drop off his weekly column and to visit with the staff, and to other stops around town.People loved what he wrote, and everywhere people would comment on his columns with praise.He did love people and had many, many friends, young and old.


 

I got started on my eight years with Seaver as a consequence of saying hello to someone in the intensive care unit at Harrington Memorial Hospital.In the next bed was Seaver, who had just received a pacemaker.When he got home (alone, of course) he needed some help with getting groceries, etc.After a few trips for him in the mornings, it soon became a routine.It’s a good feeling at the end of the day to know you’ve been of help to someone.


 

It was especially nice helping Seaver because he was such an interesting person.He just loved people, and people loved him.Many knew him, since he had lived and been active in town for more than 60 years.No wonder they called him “Mr. Southbridge.”


 

I must admit I miss him, especially at 8:30 a.m.!Because he lived alone, he liked someone to check on him and 8:30 was the usual time.I would hear on the telephone how his night was, what he had for breakfast and what his plans were for the day.It gave him a feeling of being in touch with the world.


 

When I first knew him as a friend and helper, he lived on Everett Street; he had lived there many years with his wife, Gertrude.The last few years of her life she became incapacitated, and he took complete and devoted care of her.After she died, he continued living in the same apartment for about 15 years.Those were the years he took up writing for The News.


 

Eventually it seemed wise to move to a place that would require less care, and was more centrally located.He was fortunate to become one of the first tenants in a very fine apartment at 150 Main St. – Dresser Park Apartment House.The people there were helpful and friendly.I made some good friends as a result of his living there.


 

It’s a wonder a man in his 90s could manage keeping house for himself.He did very well cooking his meals, but as a housekeeper he left something to be desired.He mad his bed and did the best he could.For a number of years I did his laundry, but then he managed to do it himself in his apartment house.

___








Seaver had many fine and devoted family members.They were scattered, so it always took some planning to be together.His grand-niece Laura Sanger, her husband Steve and their little daughter Sarah all lived in Kittery Point, Maine.Seaver depended on them quite a bit and often visited them in Maine.

The rest of his family members also were devoted.His niece Judy Vandergriff and her husband John lived in Rockville, Maryland, and the could be counted on to be right there when he needed them.Lynn Vandegriff, Judy and John’s daughter, was very fond of her great uncle.Beside occasional visits, she kept in touch by phone.


 

Seaver had another lovely niece, Laurie Kelly, who lived in Wellesley, Mass.My husband Don and I visited with her and her son Shawn.


 

Seaver also was close to his wife’s nephew, Harold Berry.When Seaver began to get quite ill, Harold was usually there to take him to the doctor’s office or to the hospital.In addition, many times he took him to the airport when Seaver was making a trip to Maryland.
 

He was fortunate with his family and friends.They were all loving and helpful.

___








I recall one particularly happy time Seaver and I shared.My brother and his wife, Don and Marion Stillman, live in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, and the family had some cabins right at the foot of Mt. Monadnock.It was a beautiful spot.I drove Seaver there and we spend two days and one night visited Don and Marion.


 

My mother and dad originally owned the cabins.They had wonderful times there as they loved the woods, the mountain and the many lakes.They entertained a lot, and in the main cabin was a special book.Their family and friends would write something in it about their visit.Seaver was the last person to write in that book on July 15 and 16, 1981.He wrote:
 

I will life mine eyes up unto the hills, from whence cometh my strength.  Enjoyed the hospitality of the Stillmans.

__Seaver Rice


 

I am so glad we had those couple of days in Jaffrey.The place reminded Seaver of his beloved Adirondacks.We both enjoyed it and had fun remembering it.


 

On our travels in the morning, Seaver had several favorite stops.One was a coffee shop in Southbridge.More than the coffee, he enjoyed seeing his many friends there.Sometimes, when he was working on his weekly column, he would write down names of friends to mention.People always loved to see their names in the paper.Then we would go on to Sturbridge.He especially enjoyed the vegetable and fruit stand there.He liked the people who ran it.
 

Then there were two restaurants in Sturbridge we enjoyed.We got to know the waitresses, and they were lovely.Sometimes he would skip breakfast at home, and have griddle cakes out.That was a treat, especially as he remembered “cakes” as a boy, and loved them.I enjoyed our stops because, like Seaver, I like people.It’s fun to remember those days.


 

On most Sundays, Mr. And Mrs. Hans Cerney drove Seaver to church.He always wanted to go when possible, and especially loved seeing his friends.I ran into Hans at the Post Office recently.He told me he had been thinking more about Seaver.He remembered the times he would call on a Sunday morning.He would say, “You two going to church?I looked in the obituary column this morning, and my name wasn’t there.Guess I’ll go to church if you’ll take me.”It was always good for a chuckle.
 

Mrs. Estelle Wilson and family were special friends of Seaver.She was connected with the Holland Elementary School and got Seaver to speak to the school for Memorial Day.He got all dressed up in his veteran’s uniform.He always managed to keep the kids’ attention and really loved doing it.I can still see him standing straight and tall, and telling them about World War I.He even sang a few songs from the war.For his age, that was something.


 

I recently ran into Jean Nadeau, who was anxious to find someone who could loan her a tape of Seaver reciting “In Flanders Field.”He did that very well, and always recited it at the end of the Memorial Day parade.The last few years he rode in an open car during the parade; being in his 90s, he couldn’t be expected to march.


 

I hope someone does have the tape Mrs. Nadeau wanted.That would be great.

___


 

Howard Boal was another person Seaver thought a great deal of.He passed on a little before Seaver.On the Veterans Day following his friend’s death, Seaver drank that last toast of champagne to the departed members of the “13 Club,” a group of World War I comrades from Southbridge.The group, formed in 1939, met every Veterans Day for nearly half a century.Both Seaver and Howard lived to ripe old ages.


 

To all of Seaver’s good friends, now departed, we wish them peace.
 

And to Seaver too, of course.He fought the good fight against cancer until the end came on February 21, 1988.I’m so glad I had those eight years as his helped and friend.


 
 

It really is amazing how often Seaver’s name or memory comes up.People still say, “Do you miss your buddy?”


 

Of course I do.We all do.

Jan Whitney
 
 

In Memory of Page for Seaver
 
 

In Memory of Home Page - Tribute to AO People who have passed away
 

Southbridge Recollections Page
 

 
AO Recollections Page

 

Southbridge Page
 

Whitney Home Pag