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In tune with Christmas Work on the bell at Union Presbyterian Church in Blasdell completed just in time

Blasdell residents be forewarned: As the clock approaches midnight on Christmas Eve, you will hear a once-familiar sound that disappeared from the village some 30 years ago.

Union Presbyterian Church on Lake Avenue has its bell working again, just in time for Christmas.

Craftsmen from Fiske and Sons Inc. of Erie, Pa. this week finished an $18,500 restoration of the bell's cradle and frame, which had rotted away, preventing the four-ton bell from being rung.

Following the church's 11 p.m. Christmas Eve service Sunday, about the midnight hour, church members plan to gather by candlelight outside the bell tower and listen for the sweet sound heralding the holiday.

Some members of the oldest church in the village have been waiting for decades to hear the deep clang of the bell again.

Four months of fundraising this summer and fall -- including bake sales, a bazaar and a chicken dinner -- finally made it possible.

For years, the project was put off as members addressed other needs of the 105-year-old traditional village church building.

"Every time we planned on doing something, either the roof would need fixing, or the windows," said Nancy Gill, who helped organize the effort.

Gill has been a member of the church for about 40 years and remembers the sound of the bell echoing through the neighborhood. She and others are excited about its return.

"It's a new beginning," said Gill. "Being on Jesus' birthday, that's an excitement of its own. It's a reminder to say Jesus Christ is alive and well, and so are we."

The daughter of the church's oldest living member, 94-year-old William Young, will do the honors.

The church has about 150 members, some of whom have intentionally stayed away this week, so as not to hear test runs of the ringing of the bell before the big day.

"I want to wait until Christmas Eve to hear it," Cheryl Murphy said.

Fiske and Sons started Monday and wrapped up the work within three days. A test ringing took place Wednesday.

"It sounded very good," said Jesse Fiske of Fiske and Sons.

Gill got a chance to pull on the rope and hear for herself -- although not too much.

"I don't want to spoil the Christmas Eve fun," she said.

The church is planning 12 clangs at midnight Sunday, and Gill hopes residents nearby will be OK with that. "We can't do it all night, because the neighbors won't like that," she said.

The bell, which measures 3 feet high and more than 3 feet wide, will be rung regularly on Sundays before and after services.

e-mail: jtokasz@buffnews.com

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