NORTH WATERFORD — With a prayer, a lot of hard and talented work, and the ring of the 1872 Holbrook bell, the North Waterford Congregational Church steeple was returned to the church belfry shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

The 40-foot steeple was removed from the 1860 church on Five Kezars Road in North Waterford two weeks ago to repair water damage that rotted the sheathing and to make repairs to the weather vane.

By 10 a.m., nearly two dozen cars had lined up on the short, dirt road and passengers had disembarked to witness the raising of the steeple. Parishioners say it had been tilting for a number of years.

“Well I said a prayer everything will be OK,” announced the Rev. George Frobig as he sat down in one of the many church folding chairs that had been brought out to the front lawn of the church for people to sit on once 10 a.m. turned into 11 a.m. and then noontime.

“Are we safe here?” asked a parishioner as she sat down next to the pastor near the crane that operator Lou Bernier used to pick up the massive structure.

“I don’t know,” the reverend said with a chuckle.

Many people drove to the church three hours before the steeple was set down on top of the belfry but waited with good humor enjoying the bright sunshine of the late summer day.

“I went to Sunday school here,” said Mary Lord Rust as she talked about her family’s longtime connection to the church. “I had to come over here and watch this.”

At nearby Melby’s General Store on Route 35, customers were also watching the event unfold from the front porch and store windows.

“Anyone watching the big excitement in town?” a woman asked as she strolled into the store where customers were joking about whether the unusual feat would be successful.

The steeple, which weighed 5,300 pounds when it was taken down, had gained another 800 pounds by the time it was hoisted up with its newly refurbished weather vane.

Rod Blood and Merton Blood of Lovell refurbished the 1865 weather vane, painting the wrought iron black and the heavy balls gold.

The weather vane rod, which was about 12 feet long and weighed an estimated 150 pounds was hoisted onto the top of the steeple by Dave Pickering and Skip Green in the man lift just before the steeple was put up on the belfry. Next the 9-inch gold ball was set, followed by the north-south directionals which had to be set exactly right and then screwed in. The east-west directionals were placed above that followed by the smaller 5-inch ball and on top, the five-pronged lightning rod.

It was a moment of satisfaction for everyone.

“There it is finally,” said Albert Cummings, who along with Diana Douglas led the renovation effort, as those watching started clapping.

“It’s really going to happen,” said Frobig as Cummings and Douglas hitched the 30-foot straps to the four bolts that encircled the center of the steeple.

Bernier said he designed a square rig to lift the steeple so the straps wouldn’t touch the weather vane.  Once it was secured to the belfry, the straps were taken off, the bolts were taken out and then, at Bernier’s suggestion, the bolts were placed in the steeple so that if the steeple ever had to be taken down in the future, they would be there for use.

Church treasurer Judy Green said the project will cost about $12,000 to $13,000 not counting the numerous in-kind contributions of labor and some materials. About $7,000 has been raised to date. Donations are still being accepted. Green said checks should be made out to the North Waterford Congregation Church and mailed to P.O. Box 95, North Waterford, ME 04267.

“I can breathe again,” she said with a smile as she walked away from the job site that she said had become her home away from home for the past several weeks.

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Spectators watch the steeple being raised into place at the North Waterford Congregational Church on Five Kezars Road on Tuesday afternoon.

Spectators watch the steeple being raised into place at the North Waterford Congregational Church on Five Kezars Road on Tuesday afternoon.

The weather vane is set in place prior to the steeple being raised atop the North Waterford Congregational Church on Five Kezars Road on Tuesday afternoon.

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