Hear ye, hear ye: Kathy-Ann Becker, Wendell’s town crier, is one of four in the state

Kathy-Ann Becker is the town crier in Wendell.

Kathy-Ann Becker is the town crier in Wendell. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Kathy-Ann Becker, with her official town crier medallion, is the town crier in Wendell.

Kathy-Ann Becker, with her official town crier medallion, is the town crier in Wendell. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Kathy-Ann Becker, the town crier in Wendell, stands outside Town Hall.

Kathy-Ann Becker, the town crier in Wendell, stands outside Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Kathy-Ann Becker, the town crier in Wendell, seen outside Town Hall.

Kathy-Ann Becker, the town crier in Wendell, seen outside Town Hall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-24-2024 3:52 PM

Modified: 05-24-2024 5:33 PM


WENDELL — If you go to Wendell Old Home Day on Sept. 21, understand that that’s not a Salvation Army volunteer you see and hear ringing a bell on the town common. That’s Kathy-Ann Becker — and she’s actually the town crier.

Once the trusted messengers of official news and public pronouncements, town criers now hold largely ceremonial positions, opening festivals and drawing attention to local elections and town meetings. Becker is one of only four town criers in Massachusetts with the other three belonging to Provincetown, Nantucket and Watertown.

“A lot of town criers used to work for money. But I don’t work for money. I work for love,” she said outside Wendell Town Hall this week.

Anyone can become a town crier by filling out an application on the American Guild of Town Criers’ website and then getting the blessing of a local governing board, chamber of commerce or historical society. Becker, a former Wendell town moderator for 29 years, got the unanimous approval of her Selectboard a year ago.

“The Selectboard was happy to create the position of town crier and appoint Kathy Becker to the position,” Chair Laurie DiDonato wrote in an email. “Kathy is a very active member of the town and served previously as town moderator, so it seemed a fitting position for her.”

Becker’s first duty as town crier was a land acknowledgment on Wendell’s town common almost immediately after being appointed. A land acknowledgment is a statement that recognizes that the land on which an event is about to take place was stolen from Indigenous people, who were its original stewards. Becker will be unable to attend Annual Town Meeting on June 8, though she carried out her duties at the Special Town Meeting on May 1.

“I’ve only done one Special Town Meeting, and people smile and give me hugs, and for a moment, people relax,” she said the same day she wrote a letter to the Selectboard asking to be reappointed for another year.

Becker, 73, stumbled into town crier culture while conducting research for a costumed interpretation of her ancestor, Mary Bliss Parsons, a Northampton woman accused (and exonerated) of witchcraft in the 1600s. Becker found websites geared toward historical reenactors and came across Daniel Gómez Llata, the town crier in Provincetown and winner of the guild’s 2023 Virtual Town Crier Competition. Llata encouraged her to become a crier.

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Becker explained most modern-day town criers choose to represent a particular time period. Becker’s crier hails from the Revolutionary War era. She is a literate woman who has taken over the duties of her husband, who is off fighting for American independence. Becker has crafted nearly all of her costume, including the tri-corner hat.

She even used her trusty brass bell at a neighbor’s wedding in the fall to tell people when food was served.

“Everybody needs a segue,” she said. “So that was really fun. Nobody ever knows they need a town crier, so I have to look for my own fun.”

Becker said she plans to travel to Provincetown in October for the 2024 AGTC Town Crier Competition, which will be held in person.

David Rose, president, webmaster and membership director of the American Guild of Town Criers, said he has not yet met Becker but looks forward to the opportunity. He said the honorary job is fun and rewarding, and he knows Becker has put her own touch on it.

“In a sense, it’s a little bit of a hobby. You do have to work at it if you’re really serious about it,” he said. “You have to keep your voice in shape.”

Rose is a crier in Cambridge, Maryland, having been appointed by a historical preservation society that promotes the area’s oystering history. He announces the opening of festivals and welcomes visitors when their cruise ships dock at the port. Rose was previously a crier in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he gained a reputation for dressing in period garb and reading the Declaration of Independence.

More information about the AGTC is available at americantowncriers.org. Becker said anyone who joins the AGTC is automatically a member of the Ancient & Honourable Guild of Town Criers, which is based in England.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.