Monroe church finds help in replacing stolen bell
A Monroe church finds help in its quest to replace a stolen bell
Annie Mulligan / For The Herald Angelus Handbell Choir conductor Pam Gunderson (center) leads members in a concert Wednesday evening at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church in Monroe. After St. Mary's bell was stolen, Gunderson and her choir offered to hold the concert as a benefit to raise money for a new one. Photo taken 053012
Annie Mulligan / For The Herald
Sister Barbara Geib (right) laughs with Janet Thonssen, a member of the Angelus Handbell Choir, on Wednesday evening at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church in Monroe. The choir offered a short lesson for audience members to learn and play handbells.
Annie Mulligan / For The Herald
Angelus Handbell Choir conductor Pam Gunderson leads members in a concert Wednesday at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church in Monroe. After St. Mary's bell was stolen, Gunderson and her choir offered to hold the concert as a benefit to raise money for a new one.
Hannah Poole (left) and Bob Gunderson, members of the Angelus Handbell Choir, play during a benefit concert Wednesday at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church in Monroe. The choir is part of the Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland and offered to play to raise money for St. Mary's new bell.
For months, church leaders have been raising money to replace the hefty antique brass bell that used to toll for services. The bell was stolen in November and busted up for a quick profit as scrap metal. Police were able to recover some of the pieces but not all.
Nevermind all that now. The church is nearing its fundraising goal for a new bell and tower -- with a little help from a neighboring parish.
On Wednesday night, the Angelus Handbell Choir from Holy Family Catholic Church in Kirkland played a fundraiser concert at the Monroe church.
Roughly 60 people attended, including Monroe parishioners, handbell fans and neighbors of all faiths, the Rev. Phillip Bloom said.
The concert reminded Monroe church members of the generosity and solidarity they have found in others since the theft, Bloom said.
He credited the Kirkland handbell choir director, Pam Gunderson, for putting it all together.
"I was blown away by what she accomplished with the handbell choir," Bloom said. "This was the first time I'd ever actually attended a concert like that. I did not realize the range and the versatility they had, and the types of sounds they could make with those bells."
The choir also performed a few numbers with two teenage Monroe musicians: violinist Marianne Martinoli and pianist Arielle Howard.
That "really raised the whole musical layer way, way up," Gunderson said. "That was really a nice serendipity that happened."
Gunderson heard about the Monroe theft from a church newsletter. She floated the concert idea to her choir. Everyone agreed to it right away.
"We're all part of the body of Christ, and when one part hurts, we all ache," she said. "We couldn't imagine the pain of someone destroying a bell. We love bells, and it was such a sad thing."
Construction on the new bell tower is moving along, Bloom said. They are working on drainage and landscaping. Almost all of the labor has been provided by volunteers, including Monroe Boy Scout Nick Martinoli, 17.
The new bell, which is used but has been refurbished, is scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks, Bloom said.
A dedication ceremony is planned for 3 p.m. July 15 at the church, 601 W. Columbia St.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org
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