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Claire Pless given Ashfield’s gold cane

ASHFIELD — Claire Pless was born in 1914 — six years before women were given the right to vote — and has never missed a single presidential election in her life.

Pless, 99, is the latest recipient of the town’s Boston Post gold-headed cane, which is bestowed to the town’s oldest resident. She received the cane from Selectboard member Ron Coler at the end of last year.

Although Pless moved from Philadelphia to Ashfield, to live with her son Philip in 2011, she is no stranger to the area. Phil Pless has lived in Ashfield for 35 years, and Mrs. Pless’s other son, Richard, lives in Shelburne Falls.

“She used to come up here every year for a week or two,” said Phil Pless. “She would walk her grandkids to Sanderson Academy or to Chapel Falls.”

He said his mother has always loved the Ashfield Fall Festival and the pancake breakfasts at Elmer’s.

Mrs. Pless was the oldest child of Michael Levin and Freya Wartelsky Levin, who were immigrants from the Ukraine and from Latvia. Her mother died in childbirth, when Pless was 4 years old.

She married Samuel Rothberg Pless in 1936, and they settled in Cheltenham, Pa. When their marriage ended in 1962, Pless went to work full-time to raise her two sons.

Pless retired at age 75 from Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Greater Philadelphia, which gave her time to go to college, according to her son. She took continuing education classes at Arcadia University until she was 90.

Pless was also a member of the Philadelphia Art Museum, and enjoyed the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Ballet and theater.

Pless has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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