By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Lillian Grove, who recently turned 90, has lived at Denny Brook Farm in Westborough for 63 years. Known as “The Blueberry Lady,” she is petite, joyful and filled with many memories. She now lives with her nephew, Roy Rogers.
“This farmhouse was built in 1725 and was owned by the Rice family who were prosperous farmers,” Rogers explained. “The Indians kidnapped at least two of their children. One became an Indian chief and did not want to come back. They paid a ransom for another son, for whom this house was built.”
The farm has a pick-your-own blueberry business, with 40 bushes that were planted in the 1960s. They sell four varieties, which ripen starting around the first week of July. Sometimes the season goes through the end of August.
Grove said that people find it easier to call her The Blueberry Lady.
She and her husband Gil moved to the farm the day a fierce tornado hit Westborough in 1953. Driving to the house, she remembers her husband saying that there was going to be a
bad storm. By the time they got to the farm, the barn was knocked down, the roof was twisted in place, and the windows were gone.
“Our clothes (which were already in the house) were sucked up the chimney,” Grove remembered.
Born in Boston, Grove grew up on a farm in Medway with four siblings. Her mother was from Jamaica, and her dad from Cape Verde. Grove’s father, Jack Rogers, was a chef in Boston at a restaurant where Joseph Kennedy Sr. and his father-in-law, Boston Mayor Honey Fitzgerald, had breakfast every day, according to Grove.
Grove’s husband, 24 years her senior, was Irish and also from Medway.
“He put on musical shows for different organizations – usually in town hall,” Grove said.
She had studied voice at the New England Conservatory, and was one of his singers. She was also classmates with his her husband’s oldest daughter from his first marriage.
When asked how her mother felt about their age difference, she said, “she was upset, but then she said that Gil was better than her own sons.”
Jeanne Parker, Grove’s niece, lived next store from 1978 to 2000, and helped on the farm. She said that no one ever talked about her “auntie and unky’s” racial difference.
“When we were kids, we called [my aunt] ‘Auntie Wiggy Worm,’ since she used to hug us and shake us. My auntie was a great cook, baker, sewer and was charitable.”
“Her dad called her ‘a hank of hair and bag of bones,’ because she was so skinny. It was his term of endearment for her,” she added.
The couple moved to Westborough in search of a farm. Early on, they had a cow named Buttercup and Grove’s husband made an assortment of cheeses from the cow’s milk.
In the 1980s, they had a number of sheep, according to Grove. She said that one is buried on the property.
Grove and her husband did not have children, but she said that their farm was always filled with neighborhood children. One neighbor, also named Lillian, would call and say, “This is Walter’s other mother. Is Walter there?”
Gil passed away in 1983, but her memory of him is clear, and her admiration is palpable. He was also a successful house painter, and managed apartment buildings in Boston. He spoke Mandarin and Cantonese, she said.
Grove said that Gil was a brilliant music and choir director. With the exception of singing on her answering machine, Grove stopped singing when her husband died.
“I sang because everyone said I should sing,” she said. “Now I don’t have to.”
Rogers moved in two years ago to help Grove, now that she’s getting on in years. Rogers said that about a year ago, Grove went missing.
“We must have had 100 policemen looking for her,” he said.
It turns out that a friend had picked her up to go to a birthday party. It was written on a calendar in the kitchen.