For Muffie Ames, Peterborough has always been home

  • Every time Mafalda “Muffie” Boccelli Ames visits the Boccelli Garden on Grove Street in Peterborough it brings back fond memories. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Every time Mafalda “Muffie” Boccelli Ames visits the Boccelli Garden on Grove Street in Peterborough it brings back fond memories. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Every time Mafalda “Muffie” Boccelli Ames visits the Boccelli Garden on Grove Street in Peterborough it brings back fond memories. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Every time Mafalda “Muffie” Boccelli Ames visits the Boccelli Garden on Grove Street in Peterborough it brings back fond memories. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Every time Mafalda “Muffie” Boccelli Ames, pictured at left with daughter Deb, visits the Boccelli Garden on Grove Street in Peterborough it brings back fond memories. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/6/2020 1:58:51 PM
Modified: 11/6/2020 1:58:36 PM

Every time Mafalda “Muffie” Boccelli Ames visits the Boccelli Garden on Grove Street in Peterborough it brings back fond memories.

The garden, named in honor of her parents, Maria and Michael, Italian immigrants who called Peterborough home for so many years, sits upon a small plot of land that at one point was the location of her family home.

Michael immigrated to Peterborough in 1910 and three years later had enough money to send for Maria and their three children at the time. Ames was born in 1925, the baby of the Boccelli family, in Peterborough.

“When he first came to Peterborough, he worked as a gardener for five people,” Ames said. He later bought a cobbler store that was on Main Street before it was moved next to the Peterborough Community Theatre, where Alice Blue is located.

And for all of her 95 years, Ames has called Peterborough home.

“I just loved it here and never thought about going anywhere else,” Ames said.

In honor of her 95th birthday and being a constant presence in town, the Peterborough Select Board presented Ames with a proclamation honoring her dedication to the town.

“We the members of the Select Board of the Town of Peterborough, do hereby proclaim Mafalda ”Muffie” Boccelli Ames to be a shining example of citizenship, and express our gratitude for the many gifts she has bestowed on our community in her 95 years,” the proclamation read.

For Ames, the recognition for the town was just an added bonus to what had already been her “best birthday ever.” Due to coronavirus restrictions, a big party was not in the cards to celebrate her milestone birthday, so instead people sent cards and notes. There were surprise outdoor visits in her yard, a drive-by parade with cars decorated in birthday wishes, a family zoom gathering, a special birthday meal outside at the Waterhouse Restaurant where she could admire the Boccelli Garden, and the apple tree that her father planted 85 years ago. The Peterborough Community Theatre even put a special birthday message on the marquee.

She was just a youngster during the Great Depression and her mother ran a boarding house filled with fellow Italian immigrants, all while raising her own children. Ames remembers when as many as 18 people were living in the Grove Street house, located next to the GAR Hall. There were times when she would accompany her mother on walks up Old Dublin Road to gather blueberries, and forage for wild, edible mushrooms. Her mother also made the “best spaghetti sauce” and her father got into making wine.

Ames has so many fond memories of her time growing up. She said she was in awe when the Hindenburg passed over her home, saying “it was so massive and flying so low! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!”

She remembers when Peterborough “was so tiny and there was no big stores.” During her childhood, school was difficult being in a home where mostly Italian was spoken.

“I can remember coming home and saying to my mother, please speak English,” Ames said.

She lived through the devastation caused by the floods of 1936 and the Hurricane of 1938, which included one night where her family had to escape to higher ground at the GAR Hall.

As a 14 years old, Ames was chosen to help serve at the luncheon honoring the Edward MacDowell postage stamp.

During World War II, Ames remembers the patriotic spirit in town, something that was passed on to her by her parents and it is a passion that has remained with her over the years. Her parents always flew the American flag in front of the family’s Grove Street home and it is something she has also done outside her Granite Street residence, where she has lived for the last 67 years.

In 1948, she married Russell Ames, whose direct descendants were among the first settlers of Peterborough. With her husband’s strong family roots in Peterborough and it being where her parents made their home when they immigrated to America “we never had any desire to live nor ever talked about moving away,” Ames said. That was a period in time when families lived close by and/or together in the same house. She said a trip to Keene was even a big deal.

“This is where my husband and I wanted our three daughters to go to school and grow up,” she said.

Even as a child, Ames loved history, collecting and saving magazines and newspapers of famous historical events. She spent a lot of time exploring her husband’s family burial plots and gravestone searches. She’s walked the battlefields in Gettysburg, and visited the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston and Ellis Island.

She has been extremely interested in the genealogy of both her family and her husband’s. Ames spent hundreds of hours researching old newspapers on microfilm, reading old transcripts and family documents, going through the Peterborough Town History books, interviewing family and friends who knew either of the families. She put together two notebooks including documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, personal stories, one about 2nd Lt. Timothy Ames, and the other a story of her parents’ lives following their journey from Italy to Peterborough. Copies of these are available at the Peterborough Town Library and the Monadnock Center for History & Culture.

After she got married, Ames stepped away from her job at the American Guernsey Cattle Club, to start a family.

“Everyone worked at the Guernsey Cattle Club,” Ames said. “No one went to college.” When Ames got back into the workforce, she spent 25 years working at the A & P Grocery Store, which was first located where the Toadstool Bookstore is.

She and Russell, who went by Rusty, went on to have three daughters, Deb, Sue and Janet, and during that time spent with her children and taking care of the family home, Ames took up the art of sewing. She would make anything that was needed for the family, whether it be window curtains or to reupholster furniture. She made clothing for the girls and their dolls, and even got into making evening and wedding gowns, as well as thing like Santa Clauses, quilted Christmas tree skirts and angel ornaments for the holidays.

“I just did it because I had the knack for it,” she said. “I learned it all by myself.”

Ames is someone who loves to cook, and when she got interested in baking, she took classes through the adult education program in town. When her husband, an avid hunter, would come home with the weekend catch, she would study the recipe books to cook rabbit, frogs’ legs, deer meat, pheasant, duck, and more.

Her love for music has been a big part of her life – from listening to it, playing the piano, and dancing. Her passion for dancing was obvious, if you ever saw her on a dance floor, which was quite often after the end of WWII, as she and Rusty were regulars at the Saturday night dances held at the Peterborough Country Club.

For Peterborough’s 250th Anniversary celebration in October of 1989, Ames and her husband were asked to ride in a wagon representing the first settling families of Peterborough. And from 1990 until 2015, she marched in the town’s Memorial Day parade until she was 89 years young.

Being part of the community has always been special to Ames. She helped contact veterans to inform them of the annual Memorial Day festivities, helping to arrange transport for many of them.

“It would take me a week or better to call them all up,” she said. “But I did it for years.”

She spent 12 years volunteering as a ticket tearer at the Peterborough Players and cooking for the food table on opening nights.

She went to Italy in her 70s with two of her daughters and returned the following year with the other to visit her parent’s and three oldest siblings’ birth place and meet long lost relatives.

“We had so much fun on those trips,” Ames said. Although with her Italian a little rusty, it was hard to communicate.

Always up for an adventure, Ames learned how to downhill ski at Crotched Mountain when she was 47, and went snorkeling for the first time at the age of 75 in the Black Hole off the coast of Belize.

“I’ve seen a lot and done a lot,” Ames said.

But despite all her travels and various interests, Peterborough has always been home. She’s seen no reason to leave the place that has meant so much to her. Peterborough is in her blood and nothing could ever compare to Our Town.


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