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80 Plus for Peace: Octogenarian Protesters Come From Afar to Say No to War
Published on Friday, September 12, 2003 by the Concord Monitor (New Hampshire)
Plea for Peace is Timeless Cry
Octogenarian Protesters Come From Afar to Say No to War
by Amanda Parry

CONCORD -- More than 40 people turned out yesterday in front of the State House to protest the war in Iraq.

Demonstrators got some honks of approval from passing cars. Some icy stares were shot their way. But no one told them to move to Iraq; no one yelled at them.

They need to see you out there, holding the sign. Standing up for what you believe in.

Thedora Haughton, who is 83 and "proud of it"
The gentle treatment was to be expected, according to the woman who organized the event.

"Really, who's going to say anything nasty to an old lady?" said Ruth McKay, 84.

Or several dozen. The protestors holding up signs and banners were all over the age of 80. They got together to lend what they hoped was a wiser, if not just older, voice to the debate on war.

"We've seen what's happened the past 50, 60 years," said John Hoar, 82, of Concord. "We remember World War II and Vietnam and Korea. We don't want our children or grandchildren to have to go through that like we did."

Kids featured big in the protest. Demonstrators all wore T-shirts that read "For the Children."

After standing in front of the State House with signs and a cloth banner reading "80 Plus for Peace," protestors began a procession down Main Street. At the corner of Pleasant Street, a volunteer stood by with cups of water. After a drop or two, demonstrators continued across Main Street, passing out flyers to surprised-looking people walking by.

Elly Stephenson, 92, and Mary Scrimshew, 83, both from Concord, made the trek down the street arm in arm. The two have been friends since the 1960s and are of one opinion about the war.

"We don't want it," Stephenson said.

"We don't like the aggression," Scrimshew added.

Thedora Haughton, who is 83 and "proud of it," said it's important that younger people see that seniors care about current events.

"They need to see you out there, holding the sign," said Haughton, who drove down from Center Sandwich. "Standing up for what you believe in."

They also need to see that seniors don't all hold the same view, according to "Walt" Mayshark, a woman from Thornton. They need to see it's a myth that people become conservative once they have children.

"That's one of the best parts of the rally," said Mayshark, who picked up three other demonstrators on her way to Concord. "Just to be around people who feel the same way you do."

Many of the protestors had had personal experience in wars past. Hoar was stationed in India during the second world war as a broadcaster for the Air Force. Mayshark's husband almost lost a leg to combat in Northern Africa during the war.

After watching the pain he went through, of countless skin graft and corrective surgeries, Mayshark said, she simply can't support combat.

"Every time I hear about it, all I can think of are the wounded veterans out there," Mayshark said. "There are those that die, but there are also the ones who come home injured."

It's no easy feat arranging a protest of any kind. Transportation had to be arranged for some of the seniors. There were wheelchairs on hand and demonstrators took turns sitting in the cool shade and standing out in the sun holding on to the banner.

While some heard about the event directly from McKay, a resident of Havenwood-Heritage Heights, others heard about it in church or from the newspaper. They set up carpools and put on sturdy shoes and made it to the capital.

One person did show up to protest the protestors.

"Vengeance shall be taken with the sword," the man said, holding up a placard reading: Remember Sept. 11.

"I remember Sept. 11," Haughton said. "I also remember Dec. 7, 1941. I still want peace."

© 2003 Concord Monitor


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