Monday, December 11, 2006

Dutch Newspaper to Publish Story about WRA Bell

Recently a newspaper that serves Wester Souburch in Holland contacted the school to clarify the story about the bell at WRA's Chapel that was cast in their town and which was the catalyst for a relief effort at the end of World War II. The bell itself was cast by Ian Burerhuys in 1611 as the Latin inscription clearly indicates. It was purchased by WRA benefactor James W. Ellsworth probably before 1900 and installed in a bell tower at his Hudson home, Evamere Hall. After his death in 1925, his estate, together with the bell, became the property of WRA.

In the summer of 1944, a crack was discovered in an old bell that had hung in the Chapel tower for nearly 90 years. That particular bell was cast in
Troy, New York, in 1853. Since it needed to be replaced, the decision was made to bring the Wester Souburch bell from Evamere Hall and place it in the Chapel tower. On July 22, 1944, a recording was made of the last striking of the hour and a brief ceremony, presided over by WRA Dean Harlan N. Wood, was held as the old bell was taken down and replaced by the large Dutch bell.

Around t
he same time, the village of Wester Souburch itself was being inundated by water as the result of damaged dikes bombed during a standoff between German and American forces. Mrs. Helen H. Kitzmiller, Reserve's school historian and wife to longtime master, Harrison Kitzmiller, saw the stories about the plight of the people in this village, and because our bell had been made in that town, decided to launch a relief effort on their behalf.

What began as a hands-across-the-sea effort on the part of the WRA community became an effort that involved the whole town of Hudson for a period of about five years. Each spring there
was a kind of fair held on the WRA campus for the benefit of Wester Souburch.

When the Kitzmillers retired from W
RA in 1954, they decided to travel abroad and were invited to Holland to accept honors from the Dutch government and the people of Wester Souburch. They went there in December of 1955 to accept the award, and while traveling in Spain a month later, Mrs. Kitzmiller took ill and died in Barcelona. Mr. Kitzmiller returned to Columbus where he had grown up, and lived there until his death in 1978.

By coincidence, the same week I heard from the Dutch newspaper, I
was contacted by a cousin of Helen Kitzmiller, who will be coming to Hudson next spring to look at the Kitzmiller scrapbooks in the WRA Archives. Meanwhile, the bell article by Franz van der Brink will be published in Holland on or around December 16, 2006.