NORTHFIELD — This community's beloved ''egg man'' celebrated his 90th birthday in a very public way yesterday, at a dedication ceremony at the school which bears his name and the shelter which houses the horse-drawn wagon that he used for 75 years to deliver eggs to homes in Tilton and Northfield.
Bert Southwick, who still lives on the same 250-acre farm his family bought in 1918 on Zion Hill Road and in the same house where he was born, has been widely celebrated in feature articles in newspapers and magazines as well as on television for his simple, frugal Yankee lifestyle and droll New England humor.
With the exception of a few years with the National Guard in the late 1940s and a brief stay in Franklin Hospital shortly after Christmas of 2001, when he suffered broken ribs and a bout with pneumonia as the result of an accident when he was run over by his delivery wagon, Southwick has spent every night at the farm.
He says that he's never taken a vacation, nor eaten a meal in a restaurant, and that the wagon that he has used all these years was purchased for $25 in Laconia in 1937 and was in constant use every Friday until he retired it about a year and a half ago due to problems with a leg that make it difficult for him to get in and out of it.
But he still delivers eggs every Friday, riding in a pickup truck driven by his friend Harold Kelley, who filled in for him while he was hospitalized and has been driving him on his route during the winter months.
Each week he delivers about 100 dozen eggs, priced at $2 a dozen, and can recall years in which he delivered as many as 250 dozen. In all he's delivered over six million eggs and chalked up enough miles on his egg wagon to have crossed the United States from coast to coast eight times.
He never married and has been alone at his farm, which is still heated by wood, ever since his late sister Edna moved into an assisted living facility about 12 years ago.
Southwick sold land to the Winnisquam Regional School District in 1994 for a new elementary school, which would later be named the Southwick School by a vote of students at the Union-Sanborn School, who were selected to choose a name for the new school.
Over the years he's been a constant friend of the school, bringing cornstalks and pumpkins to the school every fall according to Southwick School Principal Rich Hines, who told people at yesterday's gathering at the school that Southwick donated his egg wagon to the school a year and a half ago.
Dylan Hoffman, a former student at Southwick School who was looking for a project to earn his Eagle Scout badge, decided to build a shelter for the wagon so that it could be displayed on the school grounds.
''It was a lot of work and doing the research was hard. But a lot of people helped me out.'' said Hoffman at yesterday's ceremony as he described how the shelter was built and how those who worked with him cleaned and painted the wagon so that it now looks, as he says, ''as good as new. ''
Dylan Hoffman and Bert Southwick stand at the shelter Hoffman built for Southwick's horse drawn egg wagon at Southwick School in Northfield. The Eagle Scout project was dedicated in a ceremony held at the school celebrating Southwick's 90th birthday yesterday. (Roger Amsden/for tThe Laconia Daily Sun)