Historic Bell in Oakwood Cemetery Moved for Planned Cuyahoga Falls, OH, Firefighter Memorial

The bell was moved Saturday, Aug. 21 to a temporary viewing location at the rebuilt Fire Station No. 3.

Eric Marotta

Akron Beacon Journal

(MCT)

A piece of history has been resurrected to become part of a memorial to fallen firefighters and as a way to highlight the department’s newest fire station.

Members of the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department recently moved the city’s original fire bell from a memorial site at Oakwood Cemetery to become part of a new memorial firefighters are planning.

The bell was moved Saturday, Aug. 21 to a temporary viewing location at the rebuilt Fire Station No. 3, located at 1601 Portage Trail.

The fire bell will remain on display there while firefighters and supporters raise funding for the design and construction of a permanent memorial at Fire Station No. 1 at 1924 Front St.

The 600-pound bell will be refurbished at the Cincinnati company where it was cast in 1882.

Both the bell and the new fire station will be on display 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 5 during a pancake breakfast and open house for the newly rebuilt facility.

More: Rebuilt Cuyahoga Falls Fire Station 3 up and running

“Due to COVID, we really haven’t had Station 3 open for the public to walk through,” said Fire Capt. Matt Kee, who heads the Cuyahoga Falls Firefighter Memorial Foundation.

Reconstruction of the new $4.5 million Station No. 3 began in April 2019 and wrapped up in July 2020. The new station has six bays and is 14,250 square feet, nearly three times the size of the former building, which was built in the 1950s.

“This memorial will be a place where all can truly reflect upon and honor the service of those who have fallen,” Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said. “The removal of the bell is the first significant step in making this project come to fruition, and I could not be prouder of all who are involved.”

A piece of history preserved

Kee said the bell was once housed in a brick bell tower at the original Cuyahoga Falls City Hall.

“They used to pull on the rope to call all the volunteers out when there was a fire in the city. Then all the firefighters would run out and jump on the truck on the way to the fire,” Kee said.

He said the bell was taken down from the tower around 1930.

“It ended up in a garage … they couldn’t even give it away,” he said. “Around 1948, some firefighters brought it to the cemetery and made a makeshift memorial.”

The bell eventually became only a component of ceremony — specifically, the “ringing of the bell” performed at funerals of firefighters, according to the city. In those ceremonies, the bell has been tolled using a hammer because the clapper is missing.

“We would like to use it as a centerpiece of a memorial that is in a much more visible place in the city. Station 1 is approaching 100 years of service in the city. We would like to put it there on Front Street,” he said. “For us, it just made a lot of sense to bring it downtown.”

Kee said the idea for the memorial came following a tribute to former Fire Chief Wayne Bowen, who died last year. Firefighters decided to route the funeral procession past Station 1.

“The family remarked how important it was to them and how special it was for him to pass by Station 1 just one more time.”

Bowen, 88, died Feb. 22, 2020. He had retired as chief in 1991, after 32 years on the department.

Fire Station No. 1 was originally built in 1926, according to county fiscal office records.

Information for those who wish to donate to the memorial fund is still being prepared, Kee said.

He said the firefighters are working with an architect on some ideas for the memorial, and information on how to make donations should be available at the Sept. 5 breakfast.

“We’re in the very early stages of this,” Kee said.

Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or emarotta@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.

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