PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Eileen Foley was just 5 years old when she was picked to cut the ribbon for the Memorial Bridge connecting New Hampshire and Maine in 1923. Now she’s accepted an invitation to participate in the ribbon-cutting for the new bridge when it’s completed this summer, nearly 90 years later.
“I’m excited and looking forward to it,” said Foley, the former mayor of Portsmouth, N.H., who turns 95 on Wednesday. “I feel fortunate to once again be participating in a celebration of a new Memorial Bridge.”
The Foley family has no idea why then-5-year-old Eileen Dondero was picked out of the crowd of 5,000 people for the ribbon-cutting honors on Aug. 17, 1923. That same day she also was in the group that rode the first draw of the lift span.
“We felt it was very appropriate to issue the first official invitation for this year’s Memorial Bridge celebration to Eileen Foley,” said Chris Clement, New Hampshire transportation commissioner. “As much as anyone associated with the Memorial Bridge projects, Eileen has connected generations and bridged communities.”
The original Memorial Bridge over the Piscataqua River connecting Portsmouth to Kittery, Maine, cost $2 million to build. It was dedicated as a “Memorial to the Sailors and Soldiers of New Hampshire who participated in the World War 1917-1919.”
The original bridge closed to traffic in July 2011. The new bridge is expected to be completed by this July.