ROCKPORT — In the last three decades of his life, Charles Lane made aspiring horse owners' dreams come true by offering lay-away payment plans to who those who loved the animals but were restrained by tight budgets from owning a horse of their own.
Tomorrow, those grateful horse owners are uniting with Lane's family to pay tribute to their friend in the first "Ride for Charlie."
"Countless kids from Cape Ann and beyond were introduced to horses and riding thanks to Charlie," said lead organizer Kelly Fennessey, a long-time barn manager at Lane's Sea View Farm.
Fennessey sought, and quickly received, permission from the town's Department of Public Works to invite people to ride on horseback or walk from Sea View Farm on South Street to Beech Grove Cemetery beginning tomorrow at 2 p.m.
Participants will be given flowers from Charles Lane Jr.'s garden to lay on the elder Lane's grave.
"I really wanted to do something for him," Fennessey said. "Quite a few horses are coming now; I'm getting more and more calls each day."
Many of the horses already committed to the ride are horses that are used to pulling carriages around Boston; horses that are easily spooked will not participate in the ride.
A miniature horse will pull a small cart at the tail end of the procession to clean up after the horses, Fennessey said. She has yet to contact police, but said she doesn't expect the procession to cause any traffic disruptions, as the walkers will be on the sidewalks and the horses will stick to the breakdown lanes.
Lane was self-employed for most of his working life. He began operating a poultry farm on Darby Lane in the early 1930s and later took over his father's dairy operation at 38 South St. He worked in the dairy industry for 50 years until 1987, when he began to operate a boarding stable on the same property. After establishing Sea View Farm, he became a constant buyer, seller and trader of horses at various auction centers.
Fennessey described Lane as a compassionate businessman who always wanted "regular people" to be able to own horses. It was Lane who made Fennessey's dream of owning a horse a reality.
"He was the only one who would let you buy a horse and pay it off a little each week. It took me a little over a year to do it, but without that, I would never have been able to buy a horse at that time," Fennessey said. "He's done that for so many people who wouldn't have a horse otherwise; he just wanted people who couldn't afford to have horses and love horses to have them."
Farming was both Lane's vocation and his hobby. He cut hay in the fields until he was 97 years old. At age 101, he was active in the business from his arm chair.
He never forgot the kindness, consideration and hard work given to him by the townspeople of Rockport and other close friends six years ago, when his barn burned down and had to be rebuilt. He also made international headlines a couple years ago when he sued a Harvard professor for stealing manure from his property.
Lane died June 27 at the Seacoast Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Gloucester. He was 101.
Many people were nervous when Lane died that the stables would close, but Fennessey said she knew it wouldn't happen.
"Charlie always told me the barn would continue after he died," she said.
Fennessey said the ride and walk is open to everyone who knew him and their families.
"I miss him terribly," Fennessey said. "When I don't see his light on at night, it's terrible; he taught me so much about horses and was a huge part of my life."
For more information on the event, people may contact Fennessey at 978-879-7274.
Jonathan L'Ecuyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.