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Ghost of friendly bell ringer back on Third Avenue

Joyce Walter writes about the ringing of church bells
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

The ghost of an old friend seems to have returned to our neighborhood.

Since all of us have been encouraged to “stay home” by just about every health official and all levels of government leaders, something special has been taking place every day, at about noon.

The bells of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Third Avenue Northwest ring out as arranged by parishioners Janie Fries and Rosalie Boots. The first time for the bells was on March 29 with 10 tolls.

I heard the bells that day and saw several people standing on the sidewalk opposite the church. I applauded from the safely of our kitchen, thinking this was perhaps a special day during the Lenten season.

But the bells rang again the next day and the next and the next, continuing daily, for only a few dongs, in consideration of the neighbours, Fries told the Moose Jaw Express when explaining the idea to bring hope and positive thoughts and to remind people no one is alone.

I almost called Janie to let her know the neighbours in our house appreciated hearing the bells and had no problem if they maybe wanted to go to 20 tolls a day.
I didn’t make the call but I’ve listened closely most days, remembering the time in our life when I was only able to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings because of my work-related schedule all those years ago.

At that time the bells were rung by our friend, the late Doug Biden, who had an interesting sense of humour.

Occasionally I wasn’t amused by his attempts to make me laugh — especially just prior to the 9 a.m. Sunday service at the church across the street. Those bells rang with Doug’s version of “making a joyful noise” until I was fully awake and wishing we had bought a house somewhere else.

Those bells rang not with 10 tolls but 50 or 60 every Sunday morning, and they weren’t gentle chimes but enough to rouse one and all from any kind of slumber. At the beginning we didn’t realize that Doug was the ringer. But another friend, the late Reg Nieszner, gave Doug up without much friendly torture because he was in on the joke from the very beginning. It turns out Doug knew I would be trying to sleep and he wasn’t about to let that happen.

And so the church bells clanged loudly and long every Sunday morning, but did we give Doug the satisfaction of knowing we were just a bit annoyed by the Sunday morning disturbance? Of course not. That would have made his day. So we kept quiet and made sure our windows were shut Sunday morning. And often we would wave to Doug as he left the church after the completion of all his tasks.

After Doug passed away, we confessed to friends that we sometimes missed those extra chimes on Sunday morning because the new bell ringers did not have the same motivation to make the sounds heard for blocks away.

Then on Saturday, April 18 the noon hour bell ringing began, quietly at first and then with more vim and vigour and on and on it went, 50 or 60 rings or perhaps more before the daily ritual was completed.

Immediately, it reminded me of Doug and his total dedication to a rousing chorus of church bells. I listened to the very last chime and thought of the many Sunday mornings he greeted the neighbourhood and our house especially with his joyful noise. It was a beautiful memory of an old friend.

Thank you to Janie and Rosalie for making those bells ring every day, reminding all of us that we are not alone.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.