Parishioners and guests of St. John the Evangelist Slovak Lutheran Church in Lansford joined in celebration during a recent Sunday service to mark the 100th anniversary of its two church bells.
Performing during the celebration service was guest soloist Marcia Smith, a native of Brooklyn, who now resides in Jim Thorpe. Smith studied voice with former singers of Carnegie Hall and sang with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
Pastor Marjorie Keither also recognized two area residents for their involvement with the bells.
Evan Beblavy Jr. of Mantzville is the grandson of Paul Beblavy, who was one of the five church officers at the time who had the foresight to purchase the bells even though the church was struggling.
David Hawk, of Zion Lutheran Church of Nesquehoning, placed the writings of the translated minutes from the Slovak ledger by Anne Trauger into a keepsake booklet. In addition to designing, printing and donating the 100th Anniversary of Our Bells program, Hawk donated his time and the books to the church in honor of the bells.
Also present during the celebration service were the Reverend Wilma Kucharek, Bishop of the Slovak Zion Synod, of Torrington, Connecticut; and Josh Drobena, communications volunteer with the Slovak Zions Synod in Connecticut.
An appreciation was given during the service to Bob Verdin Sr. of the Verdin Bell Company in Ohio for taking the time to locate the origin of the bells as well as other information not found in the church's ledgers.
Also recognized was the church's historian, archivist, and recording secretary Anne Hano Trauger for her research in the Slovak 1912 ledger back 100 years and for writing "The Story of the Bells".
Molded with the original casting, the Slovak inscription on the outside center of the large bell reads, "I call to the Living, I weep for the Dead. Praising God, People's ears awakening. Slovak Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession of St. John the Evangelist of Lansford PA. To the Honor and Glory of God, Dedicated in the month of November A.D. 1912."
No record exists as to who created the inscriptions; however, church members assume it was the Reverend John Micatek, the pastor at the time.
Records of the church show that between the years 1903 and 1910, St. John's congregation increased from 129 to about 450 members. This resulted in a decision to enlarge the church in 1912. This included adding a steeple to include the two bells.
It also involved replacing the inadequate harmonium with a new pipe organ. Church historians said renovation costs amounted to $3,000 at the time. They added that the pipe organ was purchased from the W.W. Kimball Company for $1,500. To help cover these finances, the youth group at the time began a voluntary fundraising campaign, and church members' dues were increased to $1 per month per family, and 50 cents per each employed member.
Also as part of the renovation, two bells were purchased from the Meneely Bell Company for $720. The Meneely foundry was established in 1826 in West Troy (now Watervliet), New York, by Andrew Meneely. According to the history records, two of Andrew's sons continued to operate the foundry after his death, while a third son, Clinton H. Meneely, opened a second foundry across the river with George H. Kimberly in Troy, N.Y., in 1870. Initially named the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, this second foundry was reorganized in 1880 as the Clinton H. Meneely Company, then again as the Meneely Bell Company. Both foundries produced a combined total of about 65,000 bells before they closed in 1952.
After the bells were cast, cleaned of residue, and highly polished, the Meneely Company delivered and installed them in 1912. May 13, 1913, was chosen as the official day of dedication for the renovation, organ, steeple and bells.
The bronze bells, both cast with alloys of about 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin, still function and reside in the church's steeple. The large bell is 40 inches in diameter, has a weight of 1,300 pounds and rings in the tone of "G". The small bell is 32 inches in diameter, has a weight of 650 pounds, and rings in the tone of "B".
With the close of the Meneely Company, the electrification of the bells was made by the Verdin Bell and Clock Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The bells are now programmed by four electrical switches controlled by the organist. After 98 years, both bells, showing signs of wear, received a new head piece, clapper and clapper spring at a cost of $6,905, which was raised via donations.