Log In

Reset Password

Ding-dong bell thieves need bells rung

Bells are a lot like people. No two are exactly alike.

They have stories. They share news - both good and bad.

Long before today’s televisions, cellphones and computers, bells rang to spread the word.

Westminster Abbey and Big Ben in London and the Liberty Bell here in a fledgling new nation are among the most famous.

Locally, bells do the same thing. At churches, they call the faithful to worship. They’re often tied to celebrations of major events, while their monotone knell can remind us of someone’s passing.

I can remember my mother telling me stories about how loud the church bells in her town rang to celebrate the end of World War II.

As a child, I first recall the monotone rings I heard in November of 1963 while watching the funeral coverage of assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

And if you’re a movie buff, you might recall the line in the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” that goes something like: “Every time you hear a bell ring, an angel gets his wings.”

There were dinner bells, ship’s bells, school bells, fire bells - all types of bells - that shaped our lives in one way or another.

Given all that, I’m having trouble wrapping my old brain around why some ding-dongs would take it upon themselves to steal two bells from the Nesquehoning Historical Society.

Borough police are investigating the theft of the bells, which they say in published reports occurred sometime between noon and 2 p.m. on April 2. Society members noticed the theft April 6 when they opened for their monthly open house event.

They ask that anyone with video from security cameras in the area come forward to assist in the investigation. Anyone with information that might help the probe can call 570-669-9111.

One of the bells was from Sacred Heart Church in that borough. For years, it hung in the church steeple until 1970, when it was given a special place on a concrete pad between the church and rectory after the steeple was razed.

Sometime after the church closed in 2008, the historical society took ownership of the bell. The edifice was razed in 2010.

The other bell was from the former West End Elementary School, located at one time on West Railroad Street. The school, built in 1882, was closed in 1955 then used in limited capacities until the mid 1970s.

Nesquehoning used the site as borough offices and police headquarters until 1988.

The historical society took possession of the bell in 2019 and placed it outside its building.

That’s where it stayed - admired and untouched - until it went missing.

At the risk of being repetitive, I’m grappling with the logic of why someone would steal bells, especially in broad daylight.

And how could it be done?

Police said one bell weighed about 1,400 pounds and the other about 300 pounds.

Local social media sites exploded with comments when the news broke. Many dealt with alerting local scrapyards. Others called for vigilance, while still others were incredulous over the situation.

Perhaps the society president best expressed community sentiment when she said members were heartbroken that someone would take artifacts that meant so much to everybody.

Her comments are spot-on.

Those involved in the theft may revel in the fact they swiped two hunks of metal. But the effects of their actions go much farther.

The dumbbells who committed this crime probably never thought about the consequences of their actions.

Stealing historic property is a crime against an entire community. It affects pride, heritage and culture.

Think about the countless people who sacrificed to pay for those bells in times we can’t imagine today.

For many of us, our Coal Region ancestors weren’t rich. Those bells and the buildings they once occupied were paid for on the backs of countless mining families.

How about all the people who experienced the joy, the sadness, the pride or surprise when those bells pealed out their message?

The symbolism reflected by those bells is gone - at least for now.

But as the investigation unfolds, someday, somewhere the lunkheads responsible for the thefts will misstep.

And they’ll find out exactly for whom those bells toll.

ED SOCHA | tneditor@tnonline.com

ED SOCHA is a retired newspaper editor with more than 40 years’ experience in community journalism. Reach him at tneditor@tnonline.com.