Jim MacphersonJ and David Beemer in front of the large church bell. Courtesy photo

Bell about to quit ringing in your ears

Health care workers honored the past year for COVID

  • Friday, March 19, 2021 1:19pm
  • Life

The bell tolls for thee – health care workers.

Since March 29 last year, David Beemer has been ringing the bell in downtown Bainbridge Island at the Eagle Harbor Congregational Church. He’s done it for a minute every night at 8 to honor front-line medical workers fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. He plans to stop on the one-year anniversary of that date.

Beemer, who lives across the street from the church, started getting help from Jim Macpherson last summer. He didn’t ask for help because of coronavirus concerns. “Particularly in the beginning when everyone was isolating so completely, (it) didn’t seem like we should have anyone else going out,” he said.

Beemer said he didn’t start it to honor any one individual, although he does have a niece who is a nurse in Orlando, Fla., who contracted COVID but is fine now.

Beemer said the bell, which can be heard across Eagle Harbor, rings about 60 times in that minute. He said reaction from the public has been supportive, especially last summer when people would sit nearby and wait for it to ring out.

He really found out how popular it was when he sent out a Facebook announcement saying he was thinking about reducing it to once a week. “When we talked about ending the nightly ringing, there was a bit of an outcry” to keep doing it, he said. “A yoga group member somewhere in Winslow said their group always uses the ringing to pause for reflection.”

Beemer said there were times when it was dark and cold that he really didn’t want to do it. But “I realized that there are plenty of health care workers and other frontline folks who are getting weary of COVID-19 – not a time to be selfish.”

The bell, which is believed to have been installed in the 1890s, normally rings on Sunday mornings for church. Couples who are married in the church sometimes ring it after their ceremony. It’s also been rung during a hunger walk and high school graduation during COVID because the usual events could not happen due to restrictions.

Macpherson was his “standby Quasimodo” in early summer, but took over in July when Beemer went on vacation. They started officially sharing the duties in mid-August.

Macpherson also has family in health care. his brother was a paramedic and his wife a nurse, both retired now in Durango, Colo. “I am very sensitive to the role of health care workers during the pandemic. I often think of Max and Cathy when I ring the bell,” he said.

Macpherson said when Beemer was ringing the bell, he would often ring a large cowbell, “So it was a natural for me to fill in when Dave was gone and then work out a split in the duties.”

He became somewhat of a celebrity once while ringing the bell. “One time a sailing couple from the San Juan Islands happened to hear the bell from the nearby restaurant where they were told of the tradition by the wait staff. So they returned the next evening to film the ringing and interviewed me for a podcast they post of their sailing adventures.”

Macpherson said he has enjoyed the experience. “I consider it to be an honor to ring the bell in support of all those who have worked so hard to fight the pandemic,” he said.

There have been some malfunctions with the bell. A rope-wire connection broke and volunteer John Peterson fixed it. But it broke again about a month ago so Peterson is designing a better pulley system for the bell cradle. In the meantime, Beemer and Macpherson are ringing a smaller bell.

Beemer said the one-year mark seems like a good time to stop. “Although we are still within the pandemic, we feel that we have tolled and toiled through the depth of discontent … and hopefully offered some cheer to the world around Winslow,” he said.

More in Life

Jean and family members. Courtesy photos
Woman in BI turns 105

Though hard to verify, Jean Wohlsen has to be one of the… Continue reading

Check out BI library as it reopens to limited capacity

Patrons can only stay for up to 45 minutes

Students at Sakai Intermediate School recently participated in their annual tradition of releasing salmon into the stream behind the school. They did it every day of the week and by that Friday they had released about 3,000 fry. The students learned about salmon and the part they play in the local ecosystem.
<em>Courtesy photo</em>
Fishy tradition

Students at Sakai Intermediate School recently participated in their annual tradition of… Continue reading

Bainbridge Island survivors of Japanese internment camps during World War II gather at the new dock at the exclusion memorial. Steve Powell/Bainbridge Island Review photos
Treatment of BI Japanese Americans compared with today

Anti-Asian sentiment similar to fear during WW2

The Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market returns to Winslow Town Square April 3. The hours this year are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Farmer’s market

The Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market returns to Winslow Town Square April 3.… Continue reading

Bainbridge Island novelist Kristin Hannah has written 24 books since the early '90s. Courtesy of Kevin Lynch
BI author’s recent novels become shows, movies

Kristin Hannah wrote Firefly Lane, which premiered this year on Netflix

BHS grad publishes guide on weddings amid COVID

Jensen grew up on Bainbridge and graduated high school in 1999

Ex-BI man on Biden economic team

President Joe Biden announced March 11 his intent to nominate Ben Harris,… Continue reading

‘20 BHS grad works on Americorps projects

Madisen Medina, a 2020 graduate of Bainbridge High School, is serving with… Continue reading

A frustrated mom helps kids at computer with online learning. Getty Images stock photo
Even on BI, moms struggle during COVID

Moms always have a hard job, but COVID-19 has made it tougher.… Continue reading

David Beemer, left, and Jim Macpherson have been ringing a smaller bell recently as the bigger one was broken. Courtesy photo
Bell about to quit ringing in your ears

Health care workers honored the past year for COVID