A ‘golden’ resident: Williamsburg honors Betty Levrat, 99, with Boston Post Cane

  • Betty Levrat of Williamsburg when she entered the Army Air Corps. JUDY GOODENOUGH

  • Betty Levrat of Williamsburg when she entered the Army Air Corps. JUDY GOODENOUGH

  • Williamsburg recently presented Betty Levrat, second from right, with the town’s Boston Post Cane, which is awarded to the oldest resident in town. She turned 99 on Thursday. Levrat is pictured here four generations of her family. From left are granddaughter Heather Goodenough, daughter Judy Goodenough, Levrat (holding great-granddaughter Madelyn, and granddaughter Aimee Goodenough. Stephen GOODENOUGH

  • Betty Levrat of Williamsburg at the baptism of her first great-granddaughter, Madelyn, with her granddaughter Heather Goodenough. JUDY GOODENOUGH

Staff Writer
Published: 4/16/2021 2:11:19 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — Betty Levrat, the current holder of the town’s Boston Post Cane that recognizes the town’s most senior resident, turned 99 on Thursday. But the World War II veteran, nurse, craftswoman and matriarch, is notable for far more than her age.

“She’s bad ass,” said grandaughter Aimee Goodenough. “She is stubborn to a fault. She never gives up. She is fiercely independent.”

Goodenough also noted her grandmother’s talent at sewing and rug hooking and that her home “has always been the place where everyone is welcome.”

“They don’t make them like her anymore,” she said.

Levrat’s other grandaughter, Heather Goodenough, agrees.

“My grandmother is an amazing woman,” Goodenough said. “She’s just the most independent, amazing, strong woman.”

Town officials earlier this year presented Levrat with the Boston Post Cane — a cane made of ebony capped with gold — which is awarded to the oldest resident in many New England towns. The cane award began in 1909 as a promotion by the now-defunct Boston Post newspaper, in which canes were distributed to communities across New England to be awarded to their oldest male resident. Women became eligible for the honor in later years.

Town Administrator Charlene Nardi visited Levrat’s house in February, where she presented flowers, a certificate, a proclamation and a small replica Post Cane. Williamsburg’s original Post Cane is kept in Town Hall.

WWII experience

Levrat was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where she spent her life until graduating from nursing school. Judy Goodenough, Levrat’s daughter, said that when her mother graduated, some graduates were told they would be going into the military.

“My mom was chosen because she wasn’t married,” Goodenough said.

Levrat was inducted into the Army Air Corps in 1944 and served in World War II, although Goodenough said that her mother was not deployed overseas.

“She was one of the nurses that picked up wounded soldiers in an airplane and brought them to a hospital,” Goodenough said.

Levrat met her future husband, Army clerk Raymond Levrat, while stationed in Hempstead, New York. “She married him three months later,” Goodenough said.

After the war, the Levrats settled in West Hempstead, New York — she worked as a nurse while he worked for a collections agency.

Goodenough said two of her cousins and the daughter of one of her cousins were inspired to go into nursing because of her mother.

“She always was my idol,” said Marilyn Knowles, a cousin of Goodenough. “She always used to talk to me about nursing.”

Knowles said that from age 3 on, Levrat would give her a nursing kit for Christmas during her childhood. Knowles recently retired as nurse manager in an operating room on Long Island.

“I always aspired to be like my aunt Betty,” said Knowles. “She was my role model in life.”

Family first

Levrat would often host family gatherings at her home, first in Long Island and then in Williamsburg.

“My aunt Betty always made family come first,” Knowles said. “She was kind of like the glue of our family.”

Goodenough, who lives in Florence and taught biology at UMass for nearly 40 years, said that Levrat moved to the Valley to be closer to her family.

Aimee Goodenough said that her grandmother was “always the fun grandma to visit.” She said that Levrat taught her how to cook and sew, as well as another crucial skill.

“She was the one who taught me to drive,” Goodenough said. “Because my mom was too scared to do it.”

Heather Goodenough recalled how Levrat and her husband, who died in 2000, were major parts of her childhood. And she noted the traditions that her grandmother maintained for the holidays, such as baking Christmas cookies and dying Easter eggs.

“Her Easter eggs were always the best ones,” Goodenough said.

Steve Goodenough, Levrat’s son-in-law, noted her artistic accomplishments, noting that Levrat is a painter, rug hooker and seamstress, who sewed his wife’s wedding dress, the bridesmaid’s dresses, her own dress and the dress of his mother for his wedding to Judy.

Levrat is currently housebound, and Goodenough said that her mother “was pleased” to have received the Post Cane, although she also noted, “who really wants to be the oldest person?”

Heather Goodenough is expecting her first child, a daughter, at the end of April.

“She remembers that I’m pregnant,” said Heather, of her grandmother. “She remembers it’s a little girl.”

Goodenough also expressed the hope of being able to introduce her child to Levrat.

“She might actually get to be a great-grandmother for the third time,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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