TOWNSEND — Long before it was the thing to do, Alice Avery Struthers recycled.
The new resident just could not see her new town not having the service she used in her old town of Wellesley. So, she took action.
Soon after she and her family became year-round residents in the Harbor in 1971, her determination became reality. With the help of a committee of like-minded people and a truck body for storage donated by Roy Shepherd, people could recycle. First newspapers, then glass, sorted by color.
Since then, she has taken on many other projects. Land conservation and the arts have all benefited from her energy.
In thanks, Struthers was named the 2017 honoree of the William E. May Endowment Fund Award. “Alice exemplifies the intent of the award because of her genuine interest and long-time commitment to the town of Townsend,” the committee wrote in a press release.
Struthers does not see what all the hoopla is about. She was and still is taking great joy in doing things that matter to her.
“My life has been like a smorgasbord,” she said. “I was able to pursue these various pursuits.” Her husband was a teacher at Wheelock College and she did not have to work.
“I wanted to have a big, happy family,” she said. So she did.
The three big kids helped with the three little kids as she turned their summer house in the harbor into a year-round home and kept all the balls in the air. The Struthers family purchased the house on Harbor Pond in 1965, when their youngest child was about 11.
But, Struthers was not the type to stay at home and raise the six children she and her college sweetheart had. The town and the couple quickly became one.
The first recycling committee met at their home with 14 people sitting on the floor. “I can picture it yet,” she said, glancing at the floor in the other room.
When Alice was a member of the conservation commission, a man in aviator sunglasses knocked on the door while she was making dinner for the family. He had some very official paperwork.
Three land developers were suing her and 40 others for blocking proposed development. The case against the Club of 41, as she called it, went on for years. The Struthers were at particular risk. While each of the others could protect their property by putting it in their spouse’s name, both Struthers belonged to the club.
The conservationists held their ground and the development was limited, Struthers said.
Like others in the 1970s, Bob and Alice Struthers learned to play the guitar. For Alice, it was another way to do something that benefited the community.
She was called to play music for a special needs classroom. “I have a sympathy for special needs,” she said. Her only sister was developmentally disabled.
“That was very rewarding,” Struthers said.
A keyboard and recorder sit in a front room of her home. An early music ensemble grew from that first exposure to guitar.
One small room is dedicated to beading, stuffed to the rafters with jewelry-making materials. Colorful paintings line the walls that look out over the pond where her children once swam.
Struthers is busy, very busy. Her daughter popped in to pick up a check to bring to Town Hall. Flowers bloomed in mid-summer abandon outside the door.
Struthers still volunteers.
You can thank her, in part, for the changing display of art in the Meeting Hall. Even before the building was completed in 2009, the current member of the Meeting Hall Gallery Committee helped put policies in place to support the building.
Her most recent musical endeavor is leading the Hope Community Choir, founded by her and Jane Jackson, who with her husband Ray, is a previous honoree of the May Endowment. The chorus of seniors rehearses and performs regularly.
She teaches painting and jewelry-making classes at the Senior Center.
And, if that is not enough for an 86-year-old woman with six children and a degree in zoology and journalism from Syracuse University, she has another project underway. With the library directory, the former library trustee is working on digitizing the library collection of the “Townsend Times.”
Despite her decades in Townsend Harbor and earlier years in Wellesley, Struthers still holds the hills near Syracuse, N.Y. where she grew up as an Avery close to her heart.
“I don’t pretend I’m a Yankee,” she said. “I’m a New York girl.”
The Annual William E. May Endowment Dinner will be held Saturday, Oct. 21 at Townsend Ridge Country Club.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.