EAST GREENWICH—Long time East Greenwich resident and Navy veteran William McClintick was awarded the Boston Cane by the town council to recognize his status as the town’s eldest resident. The tradition dates back to 1909 when the owner of the Boston Post distributed 700 canes to the selectmen of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
East Greenwich is one of 500 towns that still celebrates the tradition of honoring its eldest citizen with a Boston Post Cane, though the ceremony was lost for some decades after the cane disappeared. Town clerk Leigh Carney described the moment the cane was found once again.
“In 2009, I found the original cane in a poster tube in a closet in my office when I became town clerk,” Carney said. “And the tradition was resurrected.”
The canes are made from ebony wood from the Congo and topped with 14 karat gold heads that are chased and polished. These days, the town offers its residents a replica. To be eligible, a nominee must be at least 90 years old and have lived in the town for at least 20 years. Town council president Mark Schwager presented the cane to 100-year-old McClintick with a lengthy proclamation outlining the triumphs of McClintick’s life thus far.
“Sir, you’ve had a long and remarkable life,” Schwager said. “And so you have a long and remarkable proclamation.”
McClintick was born in Idaho in 1919 and raised in Illinois. He studied engineering at Bradley University where he earned a varsity letter for football. At the age of 20, he joined the Navy reserves and attended Volunteer 7 Officers School on the USS Illinois, being among the first class of officers to be trained for World War II. During the conflict, he participated in the battle of Leyte Gulf as a gunnery officer on the USS Savo Island, a Casablanca-class escort carrier. Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle in history in terms of the orders of battle for either side and the displacement of ships sunk, and McClintick received his fair share of excitement when, during the battle, the Savo Island was struck by a kamikaze.
McClintick went on to serve in the Navy for 23 years, eventually earning the rank of commander (the grade equivalent of lieutenant colonel in the land forces). After the war, he attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis, where he met his wife, Audrey. He served as Executive Officer (XO) at the Navy base in Bremerhaven, Germany, where he lead NATO efforts to remove mines in the North Sea. And, at one time, he was also Q-Cleared under the Atomic Energy Act and led the Navy planning research team for the U.S. study on cosmic rays. Later, he served at the Pentagon in shore station development.
After retiring from the Navy, McClintick worked at Sealol Corporation and joined the staff of the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, where he served as the bishop’s administrative assistant for 14 years under bishops Higgins, Belden and Hunt. He helped to found the Episcopal Charities Fund of Rhode Island and served on the boards of Amos House and the Kent County YMCA.
He and his wife moved to East Greenwich in 1957, and during his decades in the town he has served as president of the high school PTA, as board member of Glenwood Cemetery and on the vestry at Saint Luke’s Episcopal Church. McClintick and his wife, who passed in 1998, had three children, all of whom went through the East Greenwich school system. He has been affectionately dubbed “the Mayor of Twin Pond Road” by his neighbors.
McClintick thanked the people assembled to witness his reception of the cane with a glint in his eye and a pep in his step befitting a much, much younger man.
“Thank you very much. I accept this because of its historical value,” McClintick said. “I don’t expect to need to use it for a couple more years. If you find someone who really needs a cane, let me know. We can make arrangements.”
“Things have changed a bit,” McClintick added. “In those days you could catch the train.”
McClintick did have one request for the council, however.
“I have to ask you to pass a bill saying that anybody who is elected to public office in this town has to go through the New England Wireless and Steam Museum,” McClintick said. “That’s a treasure we’ve gotta preserve. Thank you.”