Public servant, at 83, thinks it’s time to relax

Mary Faith Boice, right, shows off the plaque she received for 36 years of service to the Town of Ancram Assessor’s Office at her retirement party June 20. Assessor Ken Leggett (left) and Town Supervisor Art Bassin made the presentation. Photo by Diane Valden

Mary Faith Boice, right, shows off the plaque she received for 36 years of service to the Town of Ancram Assessor’s Office at her retirement party June 20. Assessor Ken Leggett (left) and Town Supervisor Art Bassin made the presentation. Photo by Diane Valden

ANCRAM—Keeping the records straight on the town’s 1,200 properties for tax assessment purposes over the past 36 years has been the domain of a dozen assessors and just one assessor’s clerk—Mary Faith Boice.

It’s a running joke between Mrs. Boice and Town Clerk Monica Cleveland that Mrs. Boice has been an assessor’s clerk for the same amount of time Mrs. Cleveland has been on the planet.

Mrs. Boice submitted her letter of resignation in May, effective June 1, not because she had to, but because, at 83, she figured it was time “to relax and enjoy life.”

The town threw a retirement party for Mrs. Boice at the Town Hall June 20 inviting her friends, family and residents to bring a dish to share and let Mrs. Boice know how much her good work over the years has been appreciated.

Town Supervisor Art Bassin told the 50 people gathered that Mrs. Boice was always on top of exemption filing dates and once called to remind him that his agricultural exemption papers were soon due. When Mr. Bassin said he was out-of-town and couldn’t get there to file them in time, she told him to slip them under her office door when he got home and she would pretend they had arrived in the nick of time.

She would do the same for anyone who was in a bind.

Addressing Mrs. Boice as he stood before the crowd, Assessor Ken Leggett said she had made his job easy, he would miss her dearly and besides a bouquet of flowers and an engraved plaque, he had one more thing to give her—her final paycheck.

Mrs. Cleveland also spoke, noting that when Mrs. Boice started her assessor’s clerk career, Jimmy Carter was president, MASH and Dallas were on TV, the BeeGees topped the hit parade and Superman was a blockbuster on the movie screen. Back then, a first class postage stamp cost 15 cents, a gallon of gas cost 86 cents, a gallon of milk $1.50, a Walkman would set you back $200 and the average monthly rent was $280.

Mrs. Cleveland related some of Mrs. Boice’s adventures in the assessor’s office including her encounter with a mouse caught in a trap, but still crawling across her desk. Reinforcements were called in from the Highway Department to deal with the mouse, but so she wouldn’t run into that kind problem in her retirement, Mrs. Cleveland presented her with some better mousetraps.

Mrs. Cleveland also gave Mrs. Boice some soft chewy candy bars, because one time she got a whole hard candy stuck in her throat and had to call 911. Luckily, she was eventually able to swallow it. Then there was the time a light fixture fell out of the ceiling above her, the light dangling precariously from a wire just above her head. She now has a hardhat just in case.

Mrs. Boice is very particular about the cars she drives and always trades them in every couple of years for a new one, said Mrs. Cleveland. Once Mrs. Boice was working alone at the Town Hall and her car was the only one in the parking lot. Yet someone pulled in and somehow managed to sideswipe it. To prevent another such occurrence, Mrs. Cleveland handed over some yellow caution tape and orange road cones that Mrs. Boice could use to alert careless drivers.

And finally, Supervisor Bassin noted that Mrs. Boice would now be spending her time on more important things, but after 36 years of reporting to work at Town Hall, she might find it hard to stay away. So he presented her with her own Town Hall key in case she ever felt the need to comeback.

In a recent phone interview, Mrs. Boice told The Columbia Paper, she became an assessor’s clerk, after her husband, Roger Boice, who was then an assessor, came home from a Town Board meeting and said the board wanted to hire one. Ken Hamm was supervisor at the time.

Her five children were grown and she thought it might be an interesting challenge.

Having grown up in Sharon, CT, she said she didn’t know a lot of people in town and thought the job would give her an opportunity to meet more of them. She credited then assessor Louis Fish with showing her the ropes and getting her started.

Initially, all records were handwritten on paper and about the time she started, agricultural exemptions were being instituted. Sometime during the tenure of assessor Cliff Campbell, computers were introduced and record keeping changed. Also the number and types of tax exemptions grew.

Mrs. Boice said she has no specific plans. She has a camper in the Catskills where she spends a lot of time in the summer and she may get a place in Florida. She is the mother of five: Michael, Pat, Sara, MaryAnn and Faith; grandmother of 11 and great-grandmother of 10.

In her resignation letter she said: “I’m going to miss seeing the people. I have helped many seniors with their exemptions and took the time to talk with them. I hope the next clerk will do the same.”
In a townwide email note, Mrs. Boice thanked the people who came to her retirement party and for all the cards and gifts that she received. “It makes you feel good that people care,” she wrote.

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