Florence Clarke Gove Celebrates 100th Birthday in July

Request for cards for surprise card shower

By Beryl Gove Sanborn

Note: This article about Florence Clarke Gove was written by Dorothy O. Ford in January of 1997. Florence Gove’s daughter, Beryl Gove Sanborn, asked that it be reprinted in honor of her mother’s 100th birthday this month. At the end, there is information about sending cards to Florence.

Florence Clarke Gove, an Andover native, will turn 100 years old on Friday, July 22. A surprise card shower is being arranged for anyone wishing to send her a card or a note. Photo: Beryl Sanborn

Florence Clarke was born in North Raynham, Massachusetts on July 22, 1922. The family proved to be nomadic, for they moved innumerable times in her growing up years. So many, she says she has lost count. 

Eventually, this moving around brought them to New Hampshire, and they pretty much stayed in this state from then on. Florence has fond memories of the red brick schoolhouse on Colby Hill, where she had a wonderful teacher who taught art and music, not necessarily required subjects.

She graduated from the eighth grade in the basement of the big church situated in the division of the road to Andover and the road to Franklin in Boscawen. As her graduation speech, she recited the whole book she had been given on the Dole pineapple business in Hawaii.  (The whole book, imagine.)

The family moved to East Andover, and she went to high school in Andover for a while, but she was not happy in school, so she dropped out and went to work doing housework in Danbury for $2 a week. She was required to split all the kindling, make all the bread, and scrub the wooden floors on her hands and knees, among other things. (I wonder how many of today’s youth would do all that for $2.00 a week.)

About this time, Florence went to live and work for Dr. Hayward and his first wife in New London. While she was there, she went to New London High School.

About this time her father’s mother became ill, and Florence went to Massachusetts to take care of her. When her grandmother died, Florence went to work in a defense plant, soldering brackets on condensers. 

When she reached her 21st birthday, she enlisted in the WAC Women’s Army Corp. After basic training, she shipped out to Europe and was with Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force under General Eisenhower. She did a variety of jobs in the service, such as cooking and working in the quartermaster’s corps. 

Ralph Gove was also overseas in the Army Air Force. In 1945, he was home on leave, prior to going to the Pacific to fight Japan, when the war was over.

Ralph’s folks lived in Wilmot Center, where he and Florence met. She was quite taken with him, but he ignored her. One day in the spring of 1941, while swimming with a group of friends in Kempton Brook in Wilmot Center, Ralph came up behind Florence, picked her up, and threw her into the water. But Florence could not swim. He gallantly jumped in and saved her.

Ralph was mustered out in August of 1945. He and many of his friends had enlisted right after Pearl Harbor. The Langley’s, Bertagnas, and Ralph with his four brothers went into the military. Thankfully all of them returned safely. 

Florence also left the service, but in March of 1946. They had corresponded for years and although there was no formal engagement, they had an understanding. 

They were married September 18, 1946 at the Wilmot Center Methodist Church. Although this church was 100 years old at that time, they were the only ones to be married there.  The church was struck by lightning one evening and was a total loss. 

Florence Langley, well-known for her writings of Wilmot, sent Florence pictures of the inside of the church. Florence was very pleased to put these among her memoirs.
After the war, Ralph returned to his job at Ruggles Mine, and while there, he was tapped to open another mine, Blake’s Mine, near where Florence was working as a long distance operator for the New England Telephone. Although she didn’t have her GED yet, her military service years landed a position for her. 

The children came along about this time: Gary in 1948, Beryl in 1949, and Karen in 1954. When both mines closed in 1960, Ralph went to work at Swenson’s Granite in Concord and was there for 10 years.. He then went to work for IPC in Bristol, where he remained until he retired in 1985.
The Goves had bought the land their house stood on in 1951 and started right in to build. As Florence says, it took a while and is not completely finished yet! 

Florence had a variety of jobs, among them working for Sprague Electric, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. About this time Florence decided to do something she had wanted to do for a long time. She went to Claremont Vocational-Technical College to become an LPN. (Beryl later realized Florence’s dream and became a registered nurse.) 

Florence worked at Hitchcock for three years and New London Hospital for three years. She then went back to Blue Cross Blue Shield (more money) for 10 years. Ralph and Florence traveled extensively in the United States. In 1986, they drove to Alaska for the summer. Ralph died in 1987.

From Florence’s Daughter Beryl

Although alone, my mother kept very busy helping Karen and Billy in their Kearsarge Mini-Mart and doing extensive traveling. She joined many travel groups, visiting over 15 countries. She was in Italy when the September 11, 2001 attacks happened, but she kept traveling. She always had her camera with her, as do I. 

One other activity she has been involved with is fundraising for the restoration of the Bunker Hill Cemetery in Wilmot, where she plans to be buried, alongside her husband.

My mother has always been a native of Andover, and raised three children in the Andover schools. I’d like to surprise her with a Card Shower. If anyone wishes to send a note or birthday card to Florence Gove, her address is 289 Route 4A, Andover NH 03216-3117. Her birthday is July 22. 100 years old!