Editor’s Note: Auburn Mass Daily typically runs obituaries for people with a direct connection to Auburn. Alta Eaton is an exception. Alta is not the most common name, so it caught my attention when reviewing an e-mail of recent area deaths. I knew an Alta, from Sutton, who volunteered for years at Old Sturbridge Village. She could frequently be found at the Knight Store or the Bullard Tavern. My sense of recognition was confirmed as I read through Mrs. Eaton’s obituary.
As regular visitors to OSV over the last 10 years, my kids probably spent hours interacting with Mrs. Eaton, learning about the history of our country and life in the 1860s. I remember her telling us at one time that she lived in Sutton on Singeltary, where my family also spends much time at my in-law’s house on the lake. She was one of eight children, and we occasionally spoke of the blessings and challenges of large families. Whether it was these small connections, or whether Mrs. Eaton just had a terrific recall for faces, I will never know. But she always recognized us when we encountered her on our visits.
I am certain other of our readers have encountered Mrs. Eaton at OSV. Perhaps some have even come to know her in the way we had; as a recognizable and welcoming figure at our beloved museum. People touch our lives in many small but significant ways. Such is the case with Alta MacLaren Eaton, who volunteered at the Village until the ripe age of 89, sharing her love of history and, in turn, spawning new generations of American history buffs.
We extend our condolences to Mrs. Eaton’s family and friends, while at the same time acknowledging that her life was rich and meaningful. We would like her family to know that Mrs. Eaton touched lives in ways they may not be aware, or even imagined. Her stories and lessons, in some small part, helped shape my children in a positive way, and for that we are forever grateful.
Alta MacLaren Eaton, 91, passed away on September 1, 2016. Born in Sutton on February 2, 1925, Alta was the youngest child of eight born to Harold Logan MacLaren and Maude Lincoln Ray. She was the beloved wife of the late John A. “Al” Eaton, who died in 1991.
Part of the Greatest Generation, Alta was a homemaker and mother while Al served in the United States Army in Europe during WW II. Always fashionable, during the 1950’s she was a partner in a dress shop called The Studio in Millbury. Alta loved a good party, and in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, she and Al made their home on Lake Singletary in Sutton where they entertained their friends and family year-round. She and Al spent their golden years traveling together in their Airstream, spending winters in Ft. Myers, FL. She was a past Deputy Grand Matron of the Massachusetts Order of the Eastern Star, and fiercely proud of her Scottish heritage. Creag an Tuirc!
Alta was perhaps best known as a costumed interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village. She was an American history buff and her natural flair for drama served her well as she brought the 1830’s to life to thousands of visitors. She retired from OSV in May of 2014 at the age of 89.
Alta is survived by her son Jeffrey Eaton of Perkinsville, VT; her son-in-law Rynard Gundrum, Sr.; her granddaughter Ingrid Gundrum and her husband Andy Crandall; her grandson Rynard Gundrum, Jr. and his wife Susan, all of Grafton, NY; her granddaughter Laura McLaughlin and her husband Sean of Anchorage, Alaska; and her sister-in-law Rita Eaton Johnson and brother-in-law James Eaton, both of Worcester. Alta was grandmother to thirteen great-grandchildren, and aunt to many nieces and nephews who adored their “Auntie Alta”. She was “Grammy Alta” to Katie Toomey and her husband Steve Chad, and dear friend to Claire Toomey, all of Worcester. In addition to her husband, Alta was predeceased by her seven siblings and her cherished daughter, Lois Eaton Gundrum.
Alta’s Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, November 26 at 10:00 a.m. at the First Congregational Church in Sutton. She will be laid to rest at Howard Cemetery in Sutton. Family and friends are invited to a reception at the church hall following the graveside ceremony.