WESTBROOK – A small slab of granite next to the Westbrook High School football field scoreboard is the only indicator that there’s something new headed for the area.

This fall, an old church bell that once sat atop the old St. Mary’s Church in Westbrook will be placed on Olmsted Field and rung when a Westbrook team is victorious, according to Superintendent Marc Gousse.

The bell has always been used as a symbol of celebration, so it’s fitting the sports field will be the bell’s final resting place, said Jim Zaharis, whose family purchased the bell for the church back in the 1940s.

“I’m happy there is a final resting place. There was a period of two or three years there where I couldn’t locate it. After St. Mary’s was demolished, no one could tell me what happened to it. Mike Sanphy [Westbrook Historical Society president and city councilor] discovered its whereabouts and let me know. That’s how I got back on track with it,” Zaharis said.

Zaharis said his father bought the bell in 1947 after he made a promise to the church. Zaharis’ mother was very sick in the 1920s and he described her as being “on her deathbed.” His father promised if she got better he would purchase the bell and give it to the church.

The bell was placed on top of the first St. Mary’s church and school on Main Street in Westbrook and then moved to a second St. Mary’s building, where it was placed outside. That building was torn down in 2008. At the time, Zaharis assumed the bell was lost, but in truth, another Westbrook organization had gotten hold of the bell and was storing it for safekeeping.

“It was donated to the Westbrook School Department from Legacy Publishing,” said Gousse. “My understanding is Legacy purchased the former church property on Main Street a few years ago. The school department took possession of the bell in exchange for removing it from the small brick structure, which housed it adjacent to the former church. A new parking lot now occupies the site of the former church and site where the bell was at one time housed.”

Gousse said he’s always been passionate about history and the bell gave the superintendent a way to link the present with the past.

“The bell represents a significant piece of Westbrook history and an opportunity to further memorialize Westbrook’s history for all residents of all ages. As opposed to seeing this iconic relic be lost to either private or public use from away, we wanted to provide a symbol to celebrate our community both now and for generations to come,” Gousse said.

“The new home for this bell at Olmsted Field will provide the forum and location to showcase this wonderful gift to our community,” he added.

On Tuesday, the bell got a new coat of paint and was just about ready to move to its new home. The bell will be mounted to a granite base, donated by Swenson Granite and to be rededicated in a sports ceremony later this year.

Marc Sawyer, athletic director at the high school, said a rope will be added to ring the bell.

“I like that the bell will stay in Westbrook and be part of Westbrook High School. I graduated from there in 1949 and played football and ran track before I left to go into the Air Force,” Zaharis said.

Unfortunately, Zaharis will not see the bell rung because he spends his winters in New York and Florida and leaves before football season really gets under way.

The bell isn’t the only addition to be added to Olmsted Field. New lights and bleachers will also be installed in the coming weeks.


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