By Anne O'Connor
TOWNSEND -- When the town needed money for a parade to celebrate its 275th anniversary in 2007, the women living at Atwood Acres came up with an idea so awesome, so incredible, that it attracted attention all around the state.
Television news channels in Boston heard about the Atwood Cuties calendar and "they couldn't believe it," said Mary Norton, who posed with beer steins and a green hat as Miss March. "They were all so crazy."
"We had all the different channels come," she said. The ladies were thrilled when one of the lovely gentlemen told them that he wanted to put his name in to move into the senior housing.
The women, aged 75 and older, posed in ever-so-slightly racy photos. Norton was one of the younger women. She turned 86 this month.
She is the only cutie still living. One other woman in the group shot on the cover is alive, but she did not have a month of her own.
"We had the best time in the whole world," she said. "We loved doing it."
The project had its challenges.
Norton wanted to be Miss February, but someone else took that slot. She had a fur muff left over from her daughter's wedding the day after Valentine's Day and thought it would be a perfect prop.
She still laughs talking about her picture. Some folks thought the beer steins showed her, as she puts it," bubs."
"That isn't me.
Everyone in her family, except her son, loved the photo.
The calendar turned out to be a social thing for the cuties.
They loved working with the photographer on the photo shoots. "The photographer, she took us all in and fixed us and gave her time," Norton said.
"Every day was better than the next day," Miss March said. When the calendar came out, it wasn't just television stations that flocked to their doors.
"You couldn't believe it," Norton said. "We had a signing. People would come in and have a drink of wine if (they) wanted it."
There was also a fair amount of ribbing between the pinup girls. "One of the ladies, God love her the poor thing, she was sitting at the piano with her rear end hanging out," Norton said.
The calendar fundraiser was a success.
"We made a lot of money," Norton said. "They had the best parade they ever had in Townsend."
After expenses, they cleared $37,000, said Maribeth Conrad who managed the senior housing and helped organize the project.
Norton lived in Atwood Acres for 14 years before moving next door to the newer Townsend Woods five years ago. The two properties are owned and managed by the same company.
"Maribeth, she knocked herself out," Norton said. "She was so good and so kind to us."
Conrad has retired from Atwood Acres, but was thrilled when she realized that the calendar dates for 2006 match 2017 exactly.
When the calendar was printed, they made many more than was needed.
Conrad plans to make some of the remainders available at the Senior Center, library, Town Hall and McNabb Pharmacy at no cost.
"(I) would like to see them go to families of the ladies, especially because they match 2017," she wrote in a text.
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