BOURQUE, MABEL RUTH (STODDARD), 103, proud lifelong resident of Fitchburg
FITCHBURG -- Mabel Ruth “Toddie” (Stoddard) Bourque, passed away on March 27, 2020. Mabel was the daughter of Henrea Franklin Stoddard, an alumnus ofCushing Academyandmember ofits first boys’ basketball team, thanlater a Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks Union paymaster for 41-years; and Mabel Ruth (Lawton) Stoddard, born and raised in the small “farming-community” of Townsend,and whose earliest ancestor traced, John Lyman (1400-1480), lived in London, England.
Mabel was married to her devoted husband Roy Joseph Bourque for 48 years before his death in February 1998. They were members of the Greatest Generation and parents tofive Baby Boomers.
She was predeceased by her older and younger sisters: Charlotte (Stoddard) Bryce and Elinor (Stoddard) Ferris, and six older Stoddard brothers: Malcom; Frederick; Francis; Burton; Kenneth, a WWII bronze star recipient for meritorious service in combat; and Lester, a WWII tank gunner with the 10th Armored “Tiger” Division of the 3d U.S. Army who along with other members of his unit were captured while defending a position during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest region of Belgium near Bastogne with “obstinate resistance” and then killed execution style by their Waffen-SS captors.
She was also predeceased by a beloved son-in-law Amedio “Toss” Tocci, Jr. in July 2006 after his long battle with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, and many amazing friends made in over a century of life.
Mabel was born on July 17, 1916 and proudly lived in Fitchburg her entire life. She was the eighth of nine children who were all out-of-hospital births, as was the custom at that time, and delivered naturally in the family’s homestead on the corner of Pearl and Pacific Streets; because Burbank Hospital on Nichols Road was for the treatment of diseases and did not have a maternity unit. Burbank did have “Hospital Hill” where like many Fitchburg children in years past, Mabel and her siblings spent winter weekends in their youth sledding on homemade toboggans into hay bales lining Mechanic Street.
On summer weekends in her youth she would ride in a Fitchburg Street Railway trolleywith her mother and sistersfrom a stop near a recently erected Spanish American War monument in Moran Square to Whalom Amusement Park or Sunne’s Beach on Wyman Pond at theformer Gatehouse and Dam Station in Westminster. Before the Great Depression struck, her mother and older sister shopped each payday at the many mom-and-pop stores “Downtown” and in “The Patch” neighborhood, while Mabel with her younger sister visited the “Children’s Room” inside Wallace Library as her father waited across the way in the park at Monument Square visiting and talking with men-friends waiting for their wives too.
At the park’s memorial erected in 1885 to “brave sons” who fought in the Civil War, her family would remember Mabel’s paternal grandfather, John Henrea Stoddard (1842-1901) from Boston, who was 18 when he enlisted at the commencement of the American Civil War in 1861. He fought in the Eastern Theater with the 29th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the Army of the Potomac until 1862; when at the Battle of Antietham Creek near Sharpsburg, MD “against the invading Army of Northern Virginia” he was wounded and captured. After the war he settled in S. Ashburnham, married a “bitta-fluff” Annie Eliza Doolan (1855-1933) from Ireland and raised three children: Henrea F. and two nieces, Annie M. and Winnie O. (Ronan), who were adopted after their parents died of consumption.
As a teenager, her mother would send Mabel“down the hill” to Coolidge Park after packing a lunch for two of Mabel’s older brothers, who worked on weekends from sunrise to sunset as “water-boys” at the harness racing track, where she would also help them haul water across the agricultural fair grounds from the Falulah Brook “swimming-hole” into two barns, one for horses and one for livestock, filled with bins of windfall apples theyhad picked up off the ground at Marshall Farm for a few cents per pound.
For helping Mabel sometimes got “two-bits" toward a ticket to see a Movietone Newsreel and a Felix the Cat cartoon before amovie at one of four beautiful “picture-palaces” which were in Fitchburg until the 1960s. In the 1920s her favorite was the Universal Theatre with a huge pipe organto provide musicfor silent films that were called “two-reelers” and often stared Buster Keaton. It was also next door to Wright’s Pharmacy where Mabel would sit on a stool at the marble countertop near a brass cash register drinking a thick old-fashioned maltedandlooking at all the Coca Cola themed advertising or watching the “soda-jerk” make syrup drinks and ice cream floats while her older sister socialized with friends.
From stables off Day Street with horses normally used to haul block ice that was cut from Greenes and McTaggarts Ponds in the wintertime for private delivery to an ice house for yearlong storage behind the former American House Hotel, which was located across from Depot Square where a clock tower once stood at the Fitchburg Railroad Union Station where her father worked, her parents, who never owned a car in their lifetimes, once took Mabel and her two sisters on a roundtrip sleigh ride at Christmastime to sing along with relatives who caroled at theannual winter fair on the Town Common in Townsend.
Mabel also spent summers picnicking, swimming and fishing with those relatives along the Squannacook River, but never the Nashua River because the dyes being dischargedby the many local paper mills were frequently turning its water different colors and killing it’s marine life until Marion Stoddart organized a local water restoration committee to get “the first anti-pollution law enacted by any state” in 1965.
She attended first through eighth grades at the Edgerly School on the (McKay) campus of the Fitchburg Normal School, which was originally established by an act of the Massachusetts Legislature as a single structure on North Street in 1894. During her lifetime it eventually expanded to 32 buildings on ninety acres, becoming Fitchburg Teachers College (1932), State College (1965), and State University (2010).
The Practical Arts building, which housed one of the first junior high schools in the United States was on the same campus, and Mabel was given the nickname of “Stoddie” by her volleyball teammates there. This was shorten to “Toddie” by her lifelong friend, Millie, with whom she attended the third Fitchburg High School building (1895-1937) erected on Academy Street at the top of the Wallace Way steps.
What little leisure time Mabel had after school was spent playing girls’ volleyball and basketball with classmates. In her senior year, during a school sponsored horse-drawn fall hayride into Coggshall Park along a carttrail through the pine forest from a farm bordering Mt. Elam Road to the stone field house, she fondly recalled havinga “bagged-lunch”at the amphitheater built into the hillside facing a recently opened round gazebo on Mirror Lake. The trail had been cut as a summer WPA job forincoming seniors mentoring younger classmates; and a few years later some used the skills learned to cut apath in the woodsbehind the former Mount Rollstone Lodge on Leighton Streetand paint “FHS” for the first time on "The Rock” overlooking Crocker Stadium. Mabel was the last surviving member of the Class of 1934.
Mabel and her sisters spent time together on all types of YMCA activities under the watchful eyes of their six brothers, who were all involved in varsity sports at FHS and after graduating played “Y” men’s basketball for the Flynn Towel team that won the City Championship in 1932; and who all at one time or another worked at the Simonds Saw & Steel Co. in “the first windowless factory” on Intervale Road.
As in many dwellings of that time period her family lived with no central heating and limited plumbing until her parents bought a “three-decker”on Myrtle Ave with the convenience of indoor bathrooms and running hot water for baths and washing dishes and clothes; which happened to be close to the home-office of family friend Dr. James Greenleaf Simmons who made “house-calls” and eventually delivered all of Mabel's five children at the former Lucy Helen Maternity Hospital (1922-1954) on Main Street.
Mabel’s lifelong job was running a household and caring for her family. Her last paying job was as a finisher for the former Doehia Greeting Cards in Nashua, NH. Her first adult job was as a clerk for S.S. Kresge “5 & 10” on Main Street from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. On their days off,Mabel and co-workers mightwatch amateur bands playing for “marathon-dancers” in the 2nd floor auditorium of the former Bijou Theatrein the Whitney Building, which in Fitchburg’s heydays was opened as an opera house.
She later worked at pocketbook manufacturer H. Margolin & Co. on River Street as a member of the Associated Handbag Workers of Fitchburg. Mabel recalled how men were paid $0.48 per hour, but women who made up the majority of workers were only paid $0.34 per hour, and unlike the male supervisors the female employees had to lineup outside to be paid in cash at the small cashier office behind a ground floor window with bars that had only a pay clerk, desk and a large metal safe inside.
Mabel would take long walks to visit friends from work in different areas of the city using footpaths and steps built with granite from the now long-abandoned Rollstone Hill Quarry. She enjoyed watching the “Air Circus” at the Fitchburg Airport whenever WWI-era biplanes performed over “Pigeon Swamp” where city workers treated waste water; and taking trolley rides to “Crockerville” (Waites Corner) with siblings and hiking the former Fifth Mass Turnpike along a road that still carries the turnpike name, and on an old postal bypath through the “No Town” forest to its terminus at the colonial-era Kendall Tavern.
She and friends would also hike to the Crow Hill Ledges in the Leominster State Forest, or explore paths through the Old Growth Forest in Princeton from Redemption Rock on the Midstate Trail to the former hotel on the summit of Wachusett Mountain. One of her favorite spots for its spectacular views and sunsets, and where Mabel and husband Roy would often picnic with their children and grandchildren.
Their first home was in a small apartment near the Bourque family’s house on Falulah (Airport) Road and directly across from the Herman Bourque Memorial Field when it was on Bemis Road. In 1953, they moved into a house near Bourque Terrace on Rollstone Street; and in 1966 they moved to a close-knit neighborhood near her younger sister in “South Fitchburg” where she resided for more than 50-years.
Mabel and her late husband Roy often enjoyed traveling in their car together and with their many friends. She loved sharing stories about their summer road trips and her coffee mug collection from most of the 48 continental United States and the Canadian provinces; and their overnight trips to visit with family or for sightseeing at scenic and historic locations in all six New England states and New York.
They also looked forward to employee lakeside family outings each summer at the Simonds Recreation Club’s camp in Ashburnham, and the former Foster Grant’s camp at Spectacle Pond in Lancaster where Roy had worked as a journeyman tool and die maker before retiring as a member of their 25-year club.
With a remarkable memory and a wonderful gift for storytelling, she shared more than a century of joyful experiences with her friends and loved ones at celebrations, neighborhood cookouts, and holiday gatherings in the homes of her children. Decades later, she could recall funny or notable events from Stoddard-Lawton family outings at Willard Brook State Forest campsites in Townsend, and the Bourque family reunions at Livermore Falls, Maine and Tidal Bore Park in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
She always sent birthday and holiday cards to her relatives and friends to remind them they were in her thoughts, and kept in constant contact with all her siblings and their families with whom she shared a great sense of humor when exchanging joke birthday and Christmas gifts, and most notably when she went on very lengthy shopping excursions or summer vacations to Hampton Beach with her two sisters.
Mabel became a faithful communicant at St. Francis of Assisi Church after converting to Catholicism and was a dedicated member of The Ladies of St. Anne. She was active on many successful local political campaigns of several Bourque family members; and was a member of the Navy Mothers Club, Seniors Booster Club, Retired Women’s Club, and Secretary-Treasurer of the Braves & Squaws Bowling League.
Mabel and her husband also supported youth sports, including the Fitchburg Pop Warner Football Packers, British American Club Little League Tigers and Moran Square Diner Biddy League Celtics.
Mabel is survived by five children:her primary caregiver Patricia “Patti” (Bennett) Tocci and fiancé Kirby Harrold of Ashby; Judith “Judie” (Bennett) Porter of Fitchburg; Richard “Dick” and his wife Claire (Lunan) Bennett, of Naples, FL and Plymouth, MA; Robert “Bear” and his wife Kathleen (Dessert) Bennett, of Naples, FL and Bay Head, NJ; and Roy “Skip” and his wife Kathryn (McDermott) Bourque, of Naples, FL and Westminster, MA; and will be grievouslymissed by her longtime neighbor, closeconfidant and supportivefriend Carole Toland.
Mabel is also survived and will be remembered as an exceedingly competitive card player by her 15 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren; who, if they or their posterity ever have a desire, are eligible to join the Sons or Daughters of the Revolution as two ancestors served in the Revolutionary War.
Her maternal grandfather’s great-grandfather, Eleazer Lyman (1767-1844) enlisted in the Patriot Militia of Green Mountain Boys of Vermont when he was only 14 years old. Mabel’s paternal grandfather’s great-grandfather Moses Jennerson (1755-1842) was “on the list of Minute Men from Shirley” and at age 20 “gathered at the alarm in 1775 and went to Concord enlisted into the Company of Captain Longley in Colonel Whitcomb’s Regiment too late for the Battle at North Bridge, but did participate in the continuous attack on the British as they retreated from Concord to Lexington to Charlestown.”
She also leaves very many loving nieces and nephews; especially, Danny, her neighbor, attentive companion and fellow diehard Boston Red Sox fan, and in particular, David, the “family-historian”.
Mabel was a loving and supportive wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother thoroughly dedicated to her family, who would all like to extend their sincere appreciation to her caregivers over the years with a heartfelt “thank-you”to the late Mary Tweedie and too many other magnanimous family members, neighbors, and healthcare professionals at The Highlands to adequately mention here.
At Mabel’s request, funeral director Michael S. Alario will assist herfamily with preparations for private servicesat the Lavery Chartrand Alario Funeral Home,99 Summer Street, Fitchburg.After a Catholic liturgy outside Mass at the funeral home, her final resting place will most fittingly be next to her late husband Roy at the St. Bernard’s Cemetery. Gatheringsfor bereaved family and friends to honor and celebrate a life well lived in warmhearted memory of Mabel will be communicatedat a later date.
In lieu of flowers, the American Red Crossfaces a severe blood shortage during the ongoingcoronavirus pandemic so consider giving bloodto help people counting on lifesaving transfusions or a donation of and or a financial gift for personal protective gear neededby our public safety and healthcare workers.
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