Kay Buckner is a lifelong member of First Lutheran Church on Melmore Street. Early this week, she alerted The A-T to a special project at the church that was to begin Wednesday morning. Technicians from Verdin Co. of Cincinnati were coming to Tiffin to dismantle the First Lutheran bell tower and transport the 10 bells to their facility for refurbishing.
"I walked there from the old church ... I saw those bells go up," Buckner said.
Records show the bells were purchased and hung in 1964. Because of difficulty in getting parts and the prohibitive cost to make the necessary repairs, the bells fell silent more than two years ago until funds could be raised to remove, refit and reinstall them. The estimated cost for replacing the solenoids with electronic ringers was $35,000-$40,000, not including the cost of a crane or transportation. Buckner said the congregation started a fund for the project and set aside $9,000. Then, the son of a parishioner stopped at the church office announcing his intention to pay the entire cost for restoration of the bells.
"He said, 'I want the bells to ring again,'" Buckner recalled.
She provided the following history of the First Lutheran bells.
In October 1928, the Louisa A. Miller Sunday school class, a class of girls taught by Cora B. Fiege, started the Bell Fund with an initial offering of $45. Interest grew, and in the early 1940s, church representatives contacted bell manufacturers, only to learn the two towers of the church, then located at the corner of Madison and Jefferson streets, were not sturdy enough to support the weight of the four bells that were planned. The fund was kept alive and eventually was used to build the present 40-foot bell tower when the congregation moved to the 300 Melmore St. site.
Interest in this project grew through the inspiration of Wayne O. Kantner, pastor of First Lutheran from 1927-1956. Kantner encouraged members and friends to make gifts in honor or in memory of loved ones to this fund. Ten bells were installed in the bell tower in 1964 at a total cost of $12,908. The tower itself is 60 feet tall and has a 15-foot stainless steel cross on the top. It is mounted on a 12-ton concrete slab.
The bells were cast in the Netherlands and designed by I. T. Verdin Co. They are made of 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin. Each bell is inscribed with the name of the church and the date of organization, 1843. Also inscribed on the bells are their titles, which were chosen from the liturgy and canticles as appropriate designations of the spirit and use for each bell's voice. The dedication of the bells took place Oct. 11, 1964.