Bell tower honors veterans, loved ones
HUNTINGTON -- When the bell tolled over Spring Hill Cemetery on Wednesday evening, it served as a moment of honor and remembrance.
The Spring Hill Cemetery Memorial Bell Tower, which has been more than 13 years in the making, was dedicated during a sunset-lit ceremony in conjunction with Huntington's Healing Field and national Patriot Day at the cemetery.
About 300 people gathered to hear the first notes chime from the tower, which honors the memory of veterans, victims of the 1970 Marshall University plane crash, victims of the attacks on Sept. 11 and lost loved ones throughout the community, said Kevin Brady, director of the Greater Huntington Park and Recreation District.
"This tower represents what can happen when Huntington becomes involved in a community project," Brady said. "This project means a lot to the community, and it means a lot to me."
The tower stands a little bit less than 250 feet southeast of the plane crash memorial, and it stands next to the resting places of Dr. Paul Ambrose and his brother, Kenneth Scott Ambrose.
Paul Ambrose was a Barboursville native and Marshall School of Medicine graduate who was 32 years old when he was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. Kenneth Ambrose also was 32 when he passed away in 1998.
Their father, Dr. Ken Ambrose, said the tower is a fitting way to commemorate lost loved ones.
"It's a way of remembering them," said Ambrose. "It's a wonderful tribute to all of the 9/11 families, our son, Paul, as is the Healing Field, and it is a tribute to all of our veterans and all of those loved ones who have died and left their mark on the community."
There are four images etched into the sides of the 600-pound bronze bell. One depicts Huntington's Memorial Arch as a salute to local veterans, and the other images memorialize the Marshall Plane Crash and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The fourth image shows the Healing Field, which is on display seasonally over the hill from where the tower stands.
The dedication ceremony took place in conjunction with the ceremony for the Healing Field, which has annually been installed at the cemetery since 2011 to honor the memory of the victims of the Marshall plane crash, the victims of 9/11 and all veterans with thousands of flags that represent each life lost, Brady said.
The Park and Recreation District annually sells the flags to the public, the proceeds of which go toward paying down the $100,000 balance for the tower, Brady said.
Randall Rhoades is a commissioner on the Park and Recreation District Board, who has championed the creation of the tower since 2000.
He said the evolution of the tower from a simple memorial, to a symbol of honor has been an emotional and, as of Tuesday, gratifying experience.
"It's hard to put into words," Rhoades said. "It's been so long, and I am so proud to be a part, a very small part of this tower. I hope when people look at it they think of the veterans and they think of the people in their community that came before them and what they can learn from the lives that lived here and the ones that were lost to help us have what we have today."
The Healing Field will be on display until Sunday, Sept. 15.
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