Monday, November 20, 2017

A Remembrance of Alice Wiggin - (1878 - 1966)

Shared by Robert Percy, Franklin Historical Commission:

In 1885, two seven year old girls moved to Franklin, and lived in two newly built houses right next to each other on Crescent St. One was May Fales; the other was Alice Wiggin. They would become fast friends, and remained best friends for the rest of their lives.

Alice Wiggin taught English at Franklin High School for 42 years, starting as a young woman. She had attended Radcliffe College, one of the finest womens’ colleges in the country. By all accounts she was a talented and beloved teacher. The 1929 Franklin High School yearbook, the Oskey, was dedicated to her. In it, her students say:
She is a master of the art of teaching English literature… She is a critic capable of grasping and explaining her subject with clearness and precision by the use of short and simple words… She shows a remarkable breadth of judgment, a patience that never wearies, a quiet enthusiasm which no difficulty can distort or destroy, and great insight which can give richness to literature and new meanings to old dogmas.

This is powerful praise from her students. They go on to say:
As a friend, she loves her pupils for what they are, radiating to them by precept, sympathy and example, what she would have them be. Her creed — “Be a friend; the rest will follow.”
We are here today because of something that happened much earlier. In 1911, an eight year old girl and her four younger siblings were abandoned at South Station in Boston by their mother. This little girl was Sophie Aronofsky, who later came to live with a foster family in Franklin. At first, the soft-spoken Sophie was a student in Alice Wiggin’s English class. 

Because she showed such great promise as a student and as a human being, Alice took a great interest in her, and she came to live at Alice’s house. Alice encouraged Sophie to apply to Radcliffe College, which she attended from 1919 to 1923. Inspired by Alice’s example, Sophie went on to become a high school teacher in Duxbury and Quincy, and teacher of French, Latin, and English in California.

We are honored to have Sophie’s family here today. Sophie’s daughter Sarita Jo Mattson has powerful and loving memories of traveling from California to Massachusetts to stay with Alice multiple times while her mother was battling

cancer: once in 1948 when she was eight, for an entire year in 1952 when she was 12, and again at age 16 in 1956. Alice would also visit Sophie and family in San Diego several times while Sophie was battling cancer there.

Alice had a brilliant and active mind, but she was not the best housekeeper. Items were piled high everywhere, but visitors and neighbors and guests of all kind were always welcome.

In the words of Sarita Jo Mattson, Alice’s house was sort of a mini retirement home. Living with her was another Franklin High School teacher named Doc Fraser. Another was Frank Weaver, a visually impaired piano tuner, along with his wife Florence. The couple lived with Alice for the remainder of their lives. Alice also cared for two other foster daughters: Alice Dutton and Elizabeth Stewart Kubli, and for Sophie’s brother Samuel and sister Lil.

In later life, Alice would read new books for the Town Library and advised them on what to buy. Alice was a good cook and enjoyed cooking and eating. She helped people in need by cooking for them and delivering meals to their houses. She drove neighbors and friends to doctors’ appointments.

Alice passed away from a heart attack in 1966 at the age of 88. The whereabouts of her remains was a mystery for some time. We are honored and humbled that she rests here, in the place she cared so much about, in the town she has done so much for.

Her lifelong friend May lived to be 100, and rests here with her husband, brother… and her dear friend Alice. In this place of remembrance, their close bonds remain.

Union Street Cemetery 
Franklin, MA 
November 18, 2017

A Remembrance of Alice Wiggin - (1878 - 1966)
A Remembrance of Alice Wiggin - (1878 - 1966)

Mary Olsson before the unveiling
Mary Olsson before the unveiling

those who gathered pose for a photo
those who gathered pose for a photo

Alice Wiggin Recognition - 11/18/17

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