2017-09-07 / Around Town

Doing Something Grand

Conversation with Florence Archambault
By Lynne Tungett

Florence Archambault with her granddaughter Laura McManus and her 9th great-granddaughter Dorothy McManus. Florence Archambault with her granddaughter Laura McManus and her 9th great-granddaughter Dorothy McManus. There are many special days on the calendar, like Valentine’s Day or Halloween. And there are hundreds of rather obscure holidays, such as National Play-Doh Day and Wife Appreciation Day, both taking place later this month. But how many know that President Carter signed a proclamation on Aug. 3, 1978, deeming the first Sunday after Labor Day National Grandparents’ Day?

This year, that special day is Sunday, Sept. 10, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to talk with one local woman who is known for her community volunteerism and is also the proud grandmother of five and great-grandmother of nine.

Florence Archambault has lived in Newport for 50 years and remains as active as ever.

She recently took time via email and Facebook to share some of her insights and thoughts with Newport This Week.

What’s your secret for staying young? Keep moving and do the things you like, not what people think you should be doing because of your age.

What is one of your favorite times or activities you hope your grandchildren will remember with you? When I took most of the grandchildren to the Boston Public Garden and they saw the “Make Way for Ducklings” statues and rode on the swan boats. We still talk about it.

What is your favorite memory of one of your grandparents? My favorite memory is of my maternal grandmother. She lived across the street from us. When my mother got cross with me, which was often, she would send me to sit in Gramma's kitchen as a punishment. Little did she know how much I cherished those one-on-one visits with my grandmother.

What advice would you give to parents and grandparents about raising or nurturing children today, versus when you were a child? Never stint on hugs and kisses and words of affection to kids. I believe they thrive on knowing how much they are loved. My childhood was OK, due in part to the affection I received from my grandmother. There was not much open affection in our home.

You have a long history of community involvement. My husband, Tom, and I volunteered for nine years at the Salvation Army’s

Friday night soup kitchen. I loved this because we did it together. He manned the kitchen and I ran the dining room. At the Edward King House, I am starting my 11th year teaching "Writing Family History" for the Salve Circle of Scholars.

And where else have you volunteered? I have volunteered with Friends of the Newport Public Library, Church Community Housing Corporation, Mumford Housing, Newport Holiday for Senior Citizens, Girls Club of Newport County, United Congregational Church, and Keep Newport Clean Committee. I also gave seminars on Maud Howe Elliott for the Circle of Scholars.

Writing seems to come naturally to you. I’ve written five books, including “Occupied Japan for Collectors” and “Occupied Japan for the Home,” both published by Schiffer Publishing. Others were self-published and my “300 Years of Congregationalism on Aquidneck Island” won a national award from the Congregational Historical Society. I’ve also written short histories of the Salvation Army and the Newport Public Library.

What publications have you written for? Newport This Week, Old Rhode Island, R.I. Seniors Times, Hobbies Magazine, Depression Glass Daze, Porini (a New York City-based

Greek newspaper), Antique Week and a couple I can't remember the names of. (Editor’s note: In case you don’t recognize Florence’s name, she has written off and on for Newport This Week for 41 years).

What’s the most life-changing thing in your lifetime? The advent of the home computer.

Cursive writing is not taught in most schools today. What do you think of that? Mine sure has deteriorated since I stopped writing in longhand. How did I get all those Palmer certificates in grammar school? I fear the researchers of the future will be taking classes in how to read cursive writing.

How often do you see your grandchildren? They all live within a day’s drive. They were here a lot when they were little. One had her birthday party here because her home was being renovated. We used to have family gatherings all the time, but not so much nowadays. Everyone is so busy.

Do you have a favorite children’s storybook that you think every grandparent should have? "Make Way for Ducklings."

In her last email, Archambault wrote, “Looks like we've spent most of the day writing back and forth. I have to go now and work on article for Antique Week.”

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