By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Anyone who has attended a Memorial Day parade in Marlborough has most likely seen the Gold Star Wife named Lydia Whitcomb lay wreaths along the route. She began participating in the annual tribute in the 1940s soon after joining the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Auxiliary Chapter 82.
“I used to march in the parade with the DAV Auxiliary while my mother rode as a Gold Star Mother,” she recalled.
Whitcomb's first husband, Francis John Thomas, died in France during World War II. The city of Marlborough named Francis Drive in his honor. Whitcomb's brother, Francis Brazeau, died in a prisoner-of-war camp in the Philippines.
The name of each veteran is memorialized on a monument in front of Marlborough City Hall, where Whitcomb has placed wreaths.
“I still miss them,” she shared. “It's sad when you look at your husband's name and your brother's name there on the monument.”
Whitcomb has lived her whole life in Marlborough except briefly when her husband was stationed in Plymouth while serving in the Army.
Recently, 80 guests gathered at the parish hall of St. Matthias Church to wish her a happy 90th birthday. Among the guests were family members from Connecticut and New Hampshire.
“It was so nice to see everybody because we don's have family reunions anymore,” she said.
An active parishioner at St. Matthias Parish since it was established, Whitcomb attended its 50th Anniversary Gala held May 10 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel.
“I was afraid that hardly anybody would come, but there were 180 people there,” she said. “Some of these people I hadn's seen in a long time because they moved away.”
The following morning, Whitcomb got a front-row pew for the 50th Anniversary Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean O”Malley.
“I always sit toward the front so that I can hear and I don's have to walk so far to go to communion,” she explained. “But this man has such a strong, clear voice that I's sure they heard him in the back seats. He's a good speaker. I watch him a lot on Catholic TV.”
A reliable volunteer for the parish, Whitcomb helps with mailings, counts donations, and accepts responsibilities for the annual yard sale and holiday bazaar.
“I'sl do anything they ask me to do,” she said. “Volunteer work is my life; that's what I do. Volunteerism isn's only for a church or a senior center; it's for people.”
Whitcomb also served on an advisory committee for the city's new Senior Center. She and other committee members visited several other senior facilities. Whitcomb was particularly impressed by the Northborough Senior Center.
“I's hoping that the new Senior Center is large enough for the city of Marlborough,” she said. “If we'se going to raise money with a dinner, then we need to be able to seat 200 people.”
Based on her experience at the current Marlborough Senior Center, she has reason to hope for more than a new facility with a sizeable dining room.
“Parking is our biggest problem,” she said. “I go there to volunteer on Tuesdays, saying a prayer all the way: “God, are you going to give me a parking space today?””
Whitcomb insists that she has no secrets for living a long and healthy life.
“I don's do anything special,” she said. “I take very few medications. I try to do to what I's supposed to do. I just live one day at a time.”
A contributing factor could be good genes. Whitcomb's mother passed away a month before her 107th birthday.