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Portrait of Rebecca Nesse

Meet the ‘Bell Doctor’ of Rochester

Added on Tuesday, October 23, 2018

In the words of Rochester’s very own Rebecca Nesse, “What’s not to love about Christmas?”

Nesse sets up her Christmas tree in the living room of her home with automatic lights, glittering snowflakes and pine cones, and celebrates Christmas dinner with her son and his children. “Sometimes we eat at our house where we make traditional Norwegian meatballs and mashed potatoes – and sometimes we eat at his house.”

Nesse’s other Christmas pastime is acting as the Rochester Salvation Army’s ‘Bell Doctor,’ fixing bells that are damaged throughout the Red Kettle Season.

“There are so many behind-the-scenes things that happen during the Kettle Season that people in this community just don’t know about,” Nesse said. “I mean, who would think that bells can get broken?”

She had been a member of the Rochester Salvation Army advisory board for a number of years when one of her co-members mentioned that there were a lot of broken bells. Nesse, a self-described “handy person,” took it upon herself to start fixing the bells.

She fixed her first bell five years ago. Since then, she has found a plethora of ways to fix broken bells and make them last – such as using rubber washers to keep wooden handles from splitting.

“I can almost always rescue a bell,” Nesse said.

Her gift for tinkering began when she was young. Every house her family ever bought, they remodeled, added on, fixed and improved. Nesse says she always had that example around her, and it led to her love of art and crafty things.

Her upbringing also included a soft spot for The Salvation Army. “We always put money in the red kettles,” Nesse said. “Now, having been a nurse and a board member, I’ve seen firsthand the good that this organization does for people.”

Nesse’s whole family gets involved in the Red Kettle Campaign each year. Her children and grandchildren join her in support of The Salvation Army’s annual Rock the Red Kettle Kick-Off event.

“You know the kids get more attention. Having the kids there or being in costume while you ring the bell, it makes you smile,” said Nesse, who wears an elf headband at the kettle when she rings.

You can help the Rochester Salvation Army this Christmas season by becoming a bell ringer. Or, to learn how you can help behind-the-scenes, please call 507-288-3663.