Monroe church finds help in replacing stolen bell

MONROE — When their new bell arrives, the congregation at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church in Monroe already will have memories of sweet sounds played in its honor.

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;

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