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Clara (Seward) Gale

July 20, 1899 – March 4,2002

Hampton Union, March 8, 2002

HAMPTON — Clara Gale, 102, of 22 Tuck Road, died Monday, March 4, 2002, at Seacoast Health Center.

She was born July 20, 1899, in Exeter, the daughter of the late Samuel and Grace (Hoyle) Seward and had resided in Hampton since the early 1920s.

During World War II she served as a member of the Police Auxilliary, making certain that residents in her patrol district observed the “black-out” rules.

Mrs. Gale and her late husband owned and operated Gale’s Garage in Hampton for 40 years. She had also worked at the Kentville Hotel at Hampton Beach for several years.

She was the ballot clerk at the Hampton polls working every election for 72 years. She was honored in the 1999 N.H. Manual of the General Court.

She was a member of Hampton United Methodist Church; the Orient Chapter and Tide Mill Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star; the White Shrine; was past grand organist of the Grand Chapter of New Hampshire; a member of Oceanside Grange No. 260 and East Rockingham Pomona Grange No. 11; the Hampton Monday Club; the Kitchen Kut Ups; and the National Federation of Republican Women’s Club.

In honor of her 100th birthday a tree was planted on the premises of St. James Lodge F&AM of Hampton.

One of her most prized possessions was the American flag presented to her after being flown over the nation’s Capitol, the New Hampshire State House and the Hampton town hall polling place.

The widow of Floyd I. Gale, who died in 1967, she is survived by two nieces, Annie Whaley of Springvale, Maine, and Eleanor Adams of Kittery, Maine; two nephews, Floyd Seward of Kittery Point, Maine, and George Seward of Eliot, Maine; and several grandnieces and nephews and great-grand nieces and nephews.

She was predeceased by two brothers, Samuel Seward Jr. and R. Harold Seward; and one sister, Elizabeth Holmer.

Calling hours will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Remick & Gendron Funeral Home, 811 Lafayette Road, Hampton. Fraternal services will be conducted at 6:30 p.m. by the Grange and at 7 p.m. by Eastern Star.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. in the funeral home. Burial will be in High Street Cemetery, Hampton.

Memorial donations may be made to Hampton United Methodist Church, 525 Lafayette Road, Hampton, NH 03842.

Clara Gale Dies At 102

‘A Top-Shelf Lady’ And Poll Worker For 72 Years

By Steve Jusseaume

Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 12, 2002

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Clara Gale

HAMPTON -— When Clara Gale was born, she was such a tiny baby that when her mother wanted to buy life insurance for the child, her father said, “No, that would be a waste of time,” presumably because the baby was so small and frail.

“I’ve always remembered that story about Clara,” said long-time friend Virginia Taylor on Saturday. “And look at her. She outlived everybody.”

Gale died last Monday, March 4, at age 102. She was buried Saturday morning at High Street Cemetery in Hampton, the town she adopted as her own for the last eight decades of her life.

Following the simple funeral service at the cemetery, the family gathered at the St. James Lodge F. & A.M. of Hampton. There, friends and family sipped on coffee and recalled Gale’s life.

Ken Malcolm and his wife, Dorothy, were close friends to Gale, and had visited her the Sunday before she died.

“She was fine. Very happy. We walked into her room and she threw her arms out to give us a hug. She asked me for a hug and a kiss,” said Malcolm, whose visit lasted about 30 minutes.

Born on July 20,1899, in Exeter to the late Samuel and Grace (Hoyle) Seward, Gale moved to Hampton in the early 1920s, where she made her home with her husband, Floyd.

Married on Dec. 8,1921, the couple ran Gale’s Garage on Lafayette Road for almost 40 years. The business became Wallace Chevrolet before it was sold to Lawrence Hackett.

According to Vic Lessard, who knew Clara Gale “since I was a baby,” she was always friendly and hard-working.

Gale also worked at the Kentville Hotel.

“When I was a kid, she was a chambermaid at the Kentville. Clara was a top-shelf lady all her life as far as I’m concerned,” Lessard said.

Perhaps the singular achievement in Gale’s long life, though, was as a poll worker in town. She worked every Hampton election for 72 consecutive years, until she stopped in the early 1990s. “Even in her 90s, Clara would drive — she still drove a car — to the polls in the morning. She’d work all day and count ballots at night, then she’d drive home. Dottie and I sometimes drove behind her to make sure she got home all right, but she always did,” Malcolm said.

Gale was honored in the 1999 edition of the New Hampshire Manual of the General Court, and an American flag that had flown over the nation’s capital, the New Hampshire Statehouse and the Marston School, Hampton’s polling place, was presented to her by Malcolm.

“She loved that flag, and I was proud to be a part of the presentation,” Malcolm said.

In an interview in March 1999, Howie Noyes, another election volunteer, recalled picking up an absentee ballot at Gale’s Exeter Road home, as she could no longer leave the house for long periods of time.

“You don’t just drop in on Clara Gale. You have to put your hat down and sit. She starts talking about the old times. People half her age can’t keep up with her energy. She’s sharper than you and I put together,” said Noyes, who died just a month after the interview.

In July of 1999, the Masons threw Gale a 100th birthday party at the lodge (Gale was a longtime member of the Eastern Star). Jeremy Sawyer, current grand master of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, recalled what a grand party it was.

“I remember Richard Schanda, grand master at the time, picked Clara up and carried her to her seat in the lodge room, she was so tiny. We dedicated a tree in her honor and planted it right outside the door. A linden tree. And it still prospers today,” said Sawyer.

He added that for decades, Gale was intensely involved in the Eastern Star.

“Clara was a very dedicated member of the Eastern Star. It seemed wherever I went throughout the state, if the Eastern Star was putting a meal on, Clara would be involved in it. She loved to cook, she was so active. And just until last year she maintained her two-story home on Exeter Road without help. She was a marvelous lady,” Sawyer said.

In 1992, Gale was presented the Minnie Philbrick Service Award during a dinner in her honor at Yoken’s in Portsmouth.

Earlier in her life, during World War II, Gale was one of 12 women who comprised the Women’s Auxiliary Police. The group patrolled sections of town enforcing blackout laws. Gale’s route was from the downtown railroad overpass west to the home of Baron William von Blomberg, whom she once reportedly strongly advised to dim the house lights.

Gale and Blomberg, and Blomberg’s son Antoine, became good friends.

After her husband’s death in 1967, Gale continued on, but the subsequent death of her friend Antoine von Blomberg in the 1990s and a fall at her Exeter Road home caused her to curtail her activities in more recent years.

Gale never had children of her own. Her grandniece, Emily Starkey of Kittery, Maine, said Gale’s family extended beyond blood relatives.

“Clara never had children, but the community was her family. Years ago, she’d say she knew everybody who came to the polls in town. That changed, of course, but she was still always a bubbly little lady. She loved music, the piano, all her life. And to think that she lived so long and she never weighed more than 90 pounds,” Starkey recalled.

The Rev. Carroll Moore of Hampton Methodist Church presided over Saturday’s funeral services. He knew Clara Gale in her later years, and marveled over her 72-year record of working the Hampton polls.

“I’m 61 years old and to think that that woman performed one task for 72 years, I find that amazing,” Rev. Moore said.

Recalling her love of community and her fondness for the sea, Moore eulogized Clara Gale by quoting from the English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, who died seven years before Clara was born:

“Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning at the bar,
When I put out to sea.
“Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark.
hope to see my pilot face to face,
When I have crossed the bar.”

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