Celebrating Gert Messier & the History of the Boston Post Cane
Remembering a Sad Day with a Very Happy & Special Occasion
As you all remember, a year ago, Saturday, September 12, 2020 the COA Senior Center caught fire. Happily, the Board of Selectmen, Community Preservation Commission and Town Meeting approved the purchase of Francis Farm, which will allow the reopening of the COA Senior Center in the very near future. On the one-year Anniversary of the COA fire, the Board of Selectmen and Town Clerk decided to honor a very special senior, Gertrude “Gert” Lemieux Messier, as Rehoboth’s Oldest Citizen by awarding Gert the 1909 Rehoboth Boston Post Cane.
Prior to the Boston Post Cane ceremony, the town took a moment to recognize and thank the Command Staff and Members of the Rehoboth Fire Department; not only for being at the Boston Post Cane ceremony and flying the flag of our Country so beautifully, but for what they do every day to protect our Town. Their bravery and commitment was on full display, one year ago September 12, 2020, when the Council on Aging building caught fire. Had it not been for the quick response, professionalism and determination of Rehoboth’s Firefighters, the devastating fire would have been much worse. Their actions kept the fire from spreading to the other structures and fields that surrounded the building. And, most importantly, no firefighters or civilians were injured combatting the fire. At Gert’s Boston Post Cane ceremony, we MADE A CHOICE. We chose POSITIVITY and RESILIENCE. We CHOSE to celebrate the PEOPLE, like Gert, who make our Town special; rather than mourn the loss of a building. Therefore, the reason we scheduled Gert’s Boston Post Cane ceremony on Sunday, September 12, 2021 at the Redway Plain Veteran’s Memorial Gazebo. Where 100+ of Gert’s family and friends along with numerous Town, County, State dignitaries gathered to honor Gert and recognize how special “Our Gert” has been to the Town and Residents over her 99+ years.
Gertrude “Gert” (Lemieux) Messier – Rehoboth’s 2021 Boston Post Cane Recipient
For those of you who were unable to attend Gert’s award ceremony, the event began with Board of Selectman Chairman, Skip Vadnais, announcing the Rehoboth Board of Selectmen Proclamation declaring September 12, 2021 – Gert Messier Day. In addition to Gert’s family and friends joining in the celebration, Gert was honored by the following distinguished guests sharing their congratulations during the Boston Post Cane presentation: Jenna Massoud (Rehoboth resident) District Representative for Congressman Jake Auchincloss who is our US Representative for the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District; Massachusetts State Senator Paul Feeney representing the Bristol and Norfolk District; Representative Steve Howitt for the Fourth Bristol, consisting of Norton: Precincts 1, 2; Rehoboth; Seekonk; Swansea: Precincts 4, 5; Bristol County Sheriff, Tom Hodgson, the Rehoboth Board of Selectmen; Rehoboth Council on Aging Board member and Vice Chair of the Bristol Elders, Dr. Bruce Thayer; COA Director, Linda “Linna” Sherman; Past Chairman of the Council on Aging and a good friend of Gert, Robert Johnson, Sr.; President of the Rehoboth Senior Citizens Club, Lorraine Botts; and Gert’s grandson, Scott Markley.
I do have a few Thank You’s to share – a Huge Thank You Scialo’s County Bakery (Rehoboth residents) for the beautiful, delicious, and individually packaged Boston Post Cane Cupcakes! Thank you also to Sheila Bouchard (Rehoboth resident and Rehoboth Business Owner) of Designs by Sheila – For Gert’s Beautiful Corsage & Flower Arrangement. Please see images below of Gert’s cupcakes and flowers. I would also like to thank Jim Muri, Mike Costello, Josh from Highway, Bill Pray, Jake Kramer and Debbie Arruda for your help with setting up and breaking down the chairs for the event. Thank you Derek Rousseau and Richard Barrett for the filming and posting of Gert’s special event. Thank you also to the Rehoboth Fire Department for flying our American Flag on the Town’s Ladder truck. Thank you also Louise Ferullo (Gert’s Daughter), Scott Markley (Gert’s Grandson) for your help in making sure all the family and friends were invited. Thank you Skip Vadnais and Board of Selectmen for working with me to make this event so special for Gert. Thank you Jenna, Senator Feeney, Will, Representative Howitt, Sheriff Hodson and Tina, Dr. Thayer and Linna, Mr. Johnson Sr, and Rob Johnson, Lorraine Botts and the Rehoboth Senior Citizens Club. Because of you all, Gert’s day was so special ~ thank you all. Gert is certainly one special lady.
Speaking of our “Special” honoree Gert Messier, at the Monday, September 13th Board of Selectmen’s meeting, when we were talking about Gert’s wonderful event, the Board of Selectmen were discussing how special Gert is and someone said “Gert is Rehoboth’s Grandmother”. As a result, the Board of Selectmen voted to appoint Gertrude “Gert” (Lemieux) Messier Rehoboth’s Official Grandmother!
History of the Boston Post Cane
The Boston Post Cane tradition began on August 2, 1909 when Mr. Edwin A. Grozier, Publisher of the Boston Post, forwarded to the Board of Selectmen of 700 New England towns a gold-headed ebony cane with the request that it be presented with the compliments of the Boston Post to the oldest MALE citizen of the town, to be used by him as long as he lives, and at his death handed down to the next oldest male citizen of the town. In 1930, after considerable controversy, eligibility for the cane was opened to WOMEN as well. The cane would belong to the town and not the man/woman who received it. The canes were all made by J.F. Fradley and Co., a New York manufacturer, from ebony wood shipped from Africa. The cane had a 14-carat gold head and a ferruled tip. The head was engraved with the inscription, — PRESENTED BY THE BOSTON POST TO THE OLDEST CITIZEN OF (NAME OF TOWN) — “TO BE TRANSMITTED”. The Board of Selectmen and/or Town Clerk were to be the trustee of the cane and keep it always in the hands of the oldest citizen. As years went by some of the canes were lost, stolen, taken out of town and not returned to the Selectmen/Town Clerk or destroyed by accident. To date, only 517 of the original 700 canes have survived.
History of the Boston Post Cane in Rehoboth
Rehoboth’s Boston Post Cane was regularly presented until 2001 before going missing in 2005. The cane was rediscovered in 2015 in a storage area at the Senior Center and given to the Selectmen’s Office. The original cane is now in the possession of the Town Clerk and safely secured in the Town vault. For a number of reasons it was decided to make a replica cane and preserve the original. (The plan is for the original cane to be displayed in a protective case along with brass plates memorializing the Boston Cane recipients since 1909 in the new Town Hall Building.) Once the replica cane was received, the gold cap needed to be hand engraved with our town and state. This was not an easy task, as engraving is becoming a lost art. Arthur Stentiford of the Cameo Shop in Norton came through to save the day by hand delivering the cane to Boston, waiting for it to be engraved and returning it to the Rehoboth Town Clerk’s Office the same day.
On July 25, 2016, Francelina Veader was presented the cane. Francelina was 102-years young when she was presented the cane and treasured it for several years. Francelina’s son, Alfred, made a stand for the cane to rest in and upon the passing of his mother, Alfred donated the stand to the Town to be presented with the cane. The replica cane was purchased by the Rehoboth Senior Citizens Club along with a lapel pin depicting the Boston Post Cane. When the cane recipient no longer needs the cane, or moves out of town, the Rehoboth Boston Post cane is returned to the Town Clerk’s Office; and the lapel pin is considered a gift from the Senior Citizens Club to the recipient and recipient’s family. Our tradition continued on September 12, 2021 with the Presentation of the Boston Post Cane being presented to Gert Messier.
Gertrude “Gert” (Lemieux) Messier – Most Recent Recipient of the Rehoboth Boston Post Cane
For those of you who may not know Gert Messier, Gert is the face of the Senior Center and one sharp, hilarious lady. Gert is the 99-year-young woman who not only plays the piano at the Senior Center, but also makes it her practice to wear matching cowboy boots and cowboy hat in varying colors every day the COA was open and as you can tell in her photo above, Gert did not let us down for her event as she wore her red cowboy hat along with matching cowboy boots . . . she looked absolutely beautiful! Our beloved Gert is an amazing woman – 99 (almost 100) years young and has as much energy as the energizer bunny! Gert enjoys playing the piano, sewing, quilting and visiting with friends and family. Before the Pandemic, Linda Greaves and I would pick Gert up for her quarterly lunch at Rehoboth Town Offices so she could visit with her friends at Town Hall and we look forward to doing that again in the very near future . . . once we get this pandemic behind us.
Gert was born in Quebec Canada in 1922, she married Alfred Messier in 1950 and enjoyed 31 years of marriage until his passing. Gert had two children – Louise and Alan, four Grandchildren and six Great Grandchildren. Gert worked at the North Rehoboth School for 23 years where each school day she made delicious lunches, from scratch, for the teachers and students until the school closed in 1981. In 1986 Gert moved on to volunteering at Rehoboth’s first Senior Center located on the corner of Perryville Road and Route 118 until she retired in 1994. When Gert began work at the COA, she started “Gert’s Café” (a weekly lunch for seniors) and prepared Meals on Wheels for delivery to homebound seniors. In 2002, when the new Senior Center opened on Bay State Road, Gert started up her “Gert’s Café” again. Gert was instrumental in serving our Seniors delicious meals until March of 2020 when the COA was forced to close due to the pandemic. Gert was also the COA’s “Sunshine Lady” and would send personalized greeting cards to any senior in town who had an upcoming birthday, was experiencing an illness and other occasion. Now that the COA is closed due to the 9-12-2020 fire, Gert continues to keep busy by providing quilting instruction to Rehoboth residents. We look forward to the new Senior Center reopening soon so Gert and her senior friends can once again enjoy each other’s company.. If you would like to see Gert’s entire Boston Post Cane ceremony, please go to www.RehobothTV.org and scroll to the image of the Gazebo, Gert and Jenna Massoud, then click the play button. The video is about one-hour long.
We Need Your Help With Information on the Rehoboth Boston Post Cane
Do you know some of the Rehoboth Boston Post Cane recipients? If you do, please let us know. We don’t want to miss listing any of the Boston post cane holders dating back to 1909. If you have information to share please either e-mail me at LSchwall@RehobothMA.gov or TownClerk@RehobothMA.gov ; you may also call 508-252-6502 extension -3110 ~ thank you all!