Do you know who painted this crow? Mystery street art honors late activist Frances Crowe

  • Public art on the sidewalk in front of Hampshire County Courthouse, shown Tuesday, appears to be a tribute to the late Frances Crowe. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Public art on the sidewalk in front of Hampshire County Courthouse, Tuseday, Oct. 8, 2019 appears to be a tribute to the late Frances Crowe, the legendary antiwar activist and longtime Northampton resident who died at 100 in August. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Public art on the sidewalk in front of Hampshire County Courthouse, shown Tuesday, appears to be a tribute to the late Frances Crowe, anti-war activist and longtime Northampton resident, who died at 100 in August.

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2019 11:49:29 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On the corner of Main and Gothic streets, peeking out from under two orange leaves on Tuesday afternoon, was a black crow painted on the sidewalk.

“Frances,” read the silver letters down the crow’s silhouette. The public art appears to be a tribute to the late Frances Crowe, the legendary antiwar activist and longtime resident who died at 100 in August.

The work was not signed by any artist. And it’s not exactly one of a kind. Just a few steps down on Main Street, two more of the Crowe crows were painted on the sidewalk outside the Hampshire Council of Governments building. Though at first it seemed like a trail of sorts, no more crows could be found near the three.

As he walked by the crows on the corner, Rob Warner said he saw one recently near the bus stop at Sheldon Field but didn’t realize what it was. “Now I understand,” he said.

Like Warner, some people said they noticed the Crowe crows, while others said they hadn’t, but no one knew who painted them.

Halley Watkins hadn’t noticed the birds but said he knew Frances Crowe. How? “Everybody knows Frances Crowe,” he said, adding that he’s involved in peace activism and appreciated her antinuclear work.

Caltha Crowe, Frances Crowe’s daughter, didn’t know who made the art, either. “I have no idea,” she said. “None at all. But as you know, Frances has quite a following.”

In other words, it could have been anyone.

Estate sale

Other reminders of Crowe are left after her passing — her belongings, for example, were recently sold at an estate sale fundraiser organized by her family, and many who knew her bought items to remember her.

“The whole thing was quite moving,” Caltha Crowe said. “Some people spent hours there … Talking with each other and chatting about Frances.”

People bought items such as a War Resisters League pin and kitchen spoon. “Another one that was really funny was, one of her physical therapists bought the chair that Frances sat in,” Caltha Crowe said. “As she got older, she spent a lot of the day sitting. We of course always wanted her to have a more comfortable chair ... and she hung on to her favorite.” Buying the chair, she said, “it was really sweet.”

Every book in Crowe’s collection — 50 boxes of titles collected over 75 years — was gone at the end of the sale. “People bought books that were remembrances,” Caltha Crowe. “We sold hundreds of books, hundreds.”

Leftover books were given to a used bookstore and to Books Through Bars, an organization that sends books to people in prison.

The $2,434 raised was donated to the media organization Democracy Now! and to Cooley Dickinson Hospice — which “made such a difference in our mother’s last week of life,” Frances Crowe’s children and their spouses wrote in a letter to the Gazette.

In the end, everything was sold, except for a bed and a desk, said Caltha Crowe: “If you know anyone who wants to buy Frances’ desk ...”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




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