HARTFORD, Ohio (WYTV) – A Trumbull County church built in 1845 will have a new ring to it this Sunday morning. The bell tower is getting restored — all because one man refused to let it be destroyed.
It’s been nearly 15 years since Hartford Community Church on State Route 7 heard the bell sound on a Sunday morning. But when there was talk of tearing it down, Ron Pettitt decided he wasn’t going to let that happen.
The 81-year-old has been a member of Hartford Community Church his whole life. He’s held just about every position you can in a church and seen members come and go and pastors change. Pettitt even remembers the last time the bell rang.
“It still gets me. They toll the bell, you talk about it,” he said. “It rings once. It doesn’t go ‘ding dong,’ it just goes ‘ding.'”
A few weeks ago, Pettitt said God was calling him to help out. That the bell tower, damaged and ready to be torn down, needed to be restored instead.
When he decided to fund the fix, he also decided to dedicate it to his wife, Phyllis, who passed away in 2007. They had been married 48 years.
“I graduated in ’54 and went into the Army in ’54, and I ended up in the Phillippines in ’56 and ’57,” Pettitt said. “She wrote me every single day when I was over in the Phillippines.”
He didn’t know how he’d pay for the tower’s construction or who would do the work.
“It was a need and I could take care of it. Had no idea what it was gonna cost me but I knew if God laid it on my heart, it needed done,” Pettitt said. “He would take care of it. He’s the world’s greatest banker.”
Rod Messersmith was the man to do the job. He said he was more than happy to help.
The bell weighs a few thousand pounds, making it difficult to work on. But Messersmith had his own ties to the bell that made hearing it ring again important for him, too.
“Actually, a cousin of mine and I used to ring this bell under the age of 10 years old so there is also a lot of history for myself,” he said.
They had to fight off a few bats in the tower but after that, they restored the bell and put on new shutters and a coat of paint to make it look like new.
The project has taken over two weeks. Messersmith still has more work to do but the dedication and ringing of the bell for the first time is set for Sunday during service.