Maple Lea Vercher Gifford
1936 – 1992
Maple Lea Gifford was born March 3, 1936, in a small parish in Louisiana to parents Joseph and Susie Vercher. In this small rural town is where she met Arnold Gifford on a blind date set up by mutual friends. Arnold was in the Air Force and was stationed near her home town. They said it was love at first site and married a few months later. Thus began their life full of travel and family.
Arnold was born and raised in Little Compton so they made frequent trips to town to visit friends and relatives. Maple fell in love with the area and wanted to live in Little Compton when Arnold retired. This was guaranteed to happen when they bought a house on Long Highway in the early 60’s and right down the road from the house where he grew up. They remained in the Air Force for many years while raising their three children; Bruce, Ralph and Doreen. After traveling and living in many places, which included Oklahoma, Spain, Hawaii and Maine the family finally returning to Little Compton for good in 1972. The house they bought was completely remodeled and transformed into Maples dream home. Next came clearing land for a huge garden where Maple enjoyed planting vegetables, flowers and fruit.
Living in Little Compton was a great joy for Maple, making many friends along the way who welcomed this southern woman into their town. Getting involved with the community was a must for her and she joined the women’s auxiliary of the American Legion. Interested in politics she was always a volunteer at the polls for elections. Becoming a member of the Acoaxet church and helping her mother-in-law Marion Gifford with the church suppers. She soon took over the cooking of these events with Marion looking on and supervising. My mom was a fantastic cook! She had a way of blending her southern Cajun ways of cooking with the New England style to create dishes that were delicious. Everyone enjoyed her food, including my then future husband who was given a bowl of gumbo for dinner and thought it looked like swamp water. Not wanting to offend Maple, who was soon to be his mother-in-law he hesitantly tasted the gumbo and immediately changed his mind and that dish became one of his favorites.
Maple loved to garden, whether it be vegetables, flowers or fruit. You could find her out there most days maintaining this very large garden. It was lots of hard work but she truly loved it. Even after open heart surgery she would be out there sitting down on her behind weeding or picking strawberries. Every morning during the summer months was dedicated to the cutting of flowers and making beautiful arrangements to sell on the roadside stand in front of her mother-in-laws house. Those flower arrangements were quickly bought up within no time. After Marion passed away Maple took over the selling of flowers and jams at the stand that was now in front of her house. Maple learned a lot about flower arrangements and the making of jams from Marion Gifford, even taking classes on flower arrangements. Armed with a giant basket she would go out into her flower garden and with a keen eye would select the best flowers to be used that day. Trimming and arranging them just so she then put them into vases and out to the stand. Most days these bouquets were gone within an hour, with people knocking on the door to ask if she would make a bouquet for them. More often than not she was more than happy to comply with their request, taking them out to the garden so they could personally select their flowers. As the various fruits got ripe we would be out there with her picking and freezing them to make some jams later in the year. Many a day in the summer you could find us on the side of the road picking wild cherries or elderberries, or in the secret place in town where the blackberries and mulberries grew wild, and then to the beach to pick rosehips. These fruits were turned into delicious jams that were coveted by many. Maple made the standard jams but she also developed her own recipes that became favorites with her customers. She had standing orders with quite a few people in town. These customers became good friends and she was always willing to make what ever they wanted. Fall was canning season and we put up loads of vegetables from the garden. Making pickles was a specialty of hers as was making homemade juice to go in the freezer. Needless to say our freezers were always full and the shelves always stocked, and if you were a neighbor that needed some you were given jars to take home.
Maple’s time in Little Compton was not that long as she died suddenly on June 14, 1992. Twenty years in a place she truly loved, doing things that made her happy. Having many friends to laugh with and enjoy life in Little Compton, her home.
Doreen Medeiros, Daughter