Talking Turkey: H&R Block tax preparers talk Thanksgiving and traditions

November 23, 2016 : Lisa Patterson

The first Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1621 and as the “New World” was settled, the name Plymouth spread to towns west and south of New England. Today, there are more than 20 American cities named Plymouth.

More than 300 years after that meal in the first Plymouth, brothers Henry and Richard Bloch began doing taxes. H&R Block offices are now in Plymouth but not just in Plymouth, Massachusetts; there are H&R Block offices in five Plymouths.

Just like millions of other Americans, this week, H&R Block tax professionals will celebrate with friends and families. With just six weeks until the hustle and bustle of tax season, the following four tax preparers – who work in Plymouths and a Cranberry – took some time to reflect and share some of their families’ favorite Thanksgiving traditions, what they like on the table and who they want around it.

Plymouth, Massachusetts, population: 58,271

Maureen Donahue is in her 27th tax season at H&R Block. She is a fixture at the Plymouth office and a fixture in the community, having lived there for 31 years and raised five children. No word if she is a descendant of one of the pilgrims at the original Thanksgiving.

Living in the historic place of the first Thanksgiving has its perks, as all their visitors visit Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower. When their children were young, Donahue’s husband took them to Plimouth Plantation every Wednesday before Thanksgiving, leaving her alone to bake.

The young Donahue family’s Thanksgiving traditions also embraced the New England love of football, which during her sons’ high school days meant heading to the field for the Thanksgiving Day game. The post-game meal was dinner at her mother’s house where her nine brothers and sisters filled the dining room.

This year Donahue is excited to host a house full of family at a new home a few miles away from the home her family shared for 31 years.

Plymouth, North Carolina population: 3,766

For Dawn Craddock, a lifelong resident of Plymouth, North Carolina, childhood Thanksgivings meant fine china on the table, lots of food and a seat at the kiddie table at grandma’s house. As an adult, dinners moved to her parents’ house where grandma had moved, and more recently to Craddock’s own house where her sisters and their families gather.

“Our family Thanksgiving traditions have changed with the seasons of life and I hope I can always embrace the change,” said Craddock.

As a 26-year tax pro, Craddock has seen a lot change in the world of taxes. She started with paper and pencil returns, moved on to completing returns with mimeograph machines, then to using dot matrix printers and she now lives and works with today’s technology.

While she frequently talks taxes when people have questions in the grocery store, department store and all her other stops, Craddock says taxes are too serious of a topic to take up at a holiday dinner. If the topic comes up, she invites people to come and see her in the tax office.

Plymouth, Minnesota population: 73,987

Bruce Hildebrant is a 14-year tax advisor who has lived in Plymouth, Minnesota for 25 years. Growing up in an Air Force family, his childhood memories of Thanksgiving span the globe – from Germany to Japan and five states in the U.S. His parents and brother always gathered for the traditional meal of turkey and all the “fixins.”

Hildebrant’s Thanksgiving wish for is for “everyone to have a good time and appreciate what they have. Be with your family and enjoy it.”

Hildebrant doesn’t stick to the traditional definition of family either: he has celebrated with friends and friends’ families and each time he picked up on the slight variations of each family’s recipes. In the south it was green beans cooked with salt pork and lard and in Minnesota, “everyone does hotdish,” also known as casserole. This year, Hildebrant is headed to North Dakota to join an extended family dinner where he’ll gather with nieces, nephews and all the cousins.

Cranberry, Pennsylvania population: 28,098

All this talk about the Thanksgiving menu led to an H&R Block office in Cranberry, Pennsylvania.

An H&R Block tax professional for 44 years, Nancy Hastings has worked at the Cranberry H&R Block office her entire career. Her son was born just nine days after the tax deadline of her second tax season.

Hastings’ Thanksgiving traditions are all about the meal. She prepares every part of it, starting the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving when she cooks whole pumpkins for pumpkin pies – no canned puree in the Hastings’ house and the pie crusts are from scratch, too. Next, she’ll chop celery and onions for homemade stuffing. On Thursday, dinner is ready for a crowd. She’ll have turkey, ham, stuffing and potatoes, but what she is most proud of is her open door. She welcomes family, friends and a guest or two she didn’t expect.

“I am always happy to host my children and grandchildren and whichever friends don’t have a place to go,” Hastings said. “I got that from my mom. She always served a few extras my family brought home.”

With all that homemade food and pumpkin pie from scratch, what about the cranberries at her table?

“I have to cut a corner or two when I am making dinner; I use canned cranberry sauce,” said Hastings.

This week, the aroma of roasting turkey and simmering cranberries will fill homes as families gather. The dinner conversation can range from sports to babies, perhaps even politics and at least with some dinner guests, to taxes.

H&R Block’s advice when the taxes come up at Thanksgiving dinner: it is always best to get advice from an experienced tax professional – just not while sharing a turkey dinner. Taxpayers can locate a H&R Block office in their community at or get the latest tax news at

While Thanksgiving marks an unofficial beginning to the traditional holiday season, it also starts the clock on a countdown to tax day, which all of these tax professionals count as one of their many blessings.

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Lisa Patterson

Lisa Patterson

Contributor and Producer

Lisa Patterson has been a member of the H&R Block newsroom since 2012. She supports efforts to educate consumers and members of the media about taxes and company happenings. Before helping tax professionals talk taxes with the media, Patterson was a consultant for small companies running social media efforts, blogs, events and product marketing. She spent more than 10 years in local government managing communications for city operations, fire and the city manager. Patterson holds two degrees from University of Kansas: a Bachelor's in Business with an emphasis in marketing and a Master’s in Integrated Marketing Communications.

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