AUBURN — To save a set of historic church bells, New Auburn merchants have turned to paper bells.

Elaine Biron, owner of Roy’s Beauty Shop at 48 Third St., is selling paper bells at her shop. Anyone who makes a donation to the effort to purchase the St. Louis Church bells from the Catholic Diocese of Portland gets to write their name on one of the paper bells.

“And I stick them on my mirror for everyone to see,” Biron said. “We have cut out 800 bells by hand. So we are ready.”

Other merchants have joined the effort and are selling paper bells. They include 4 Seasons Farm Market, Rolly’s Diner, Roy’s Foodland, All About You Beauty Salon and the Fire House Grille.

There is no minimum donation.

“Whatever people can afford to donate, we’ll take,” she said. “Not everybody can afford to donate $250. Some people give us a dollar.”


Alan Manoian, Auburn’s economic development specialist, said donors have committed to $8,000 to help the city buy the 99-year-old bells from the diocese. They were the tower bells of New Auburn’s St. Louis Parish, which was decommissioned in 2012. The diocese has not said what’s going to happen with the church, but they have signed a deal to sell the bells to the city for $12,000.

According to the agreement between the city and the diocese, the city has until Dec. 27 to raise that money. With fewer than 40 days left, the effort to save the church bells is well past the halfway point.

“There are a lot of things going on in the community,” Manoian said. “Individuals and members of the community are doing some very creative things in terms of programs and projects.”

Biron said she’s also selling model bells donated through the New Auburn Association.

“We had them decorating the shop, and I thought, ‘Why not sell them and donate the money to the St. Louis bells?'” she said.

Roopers Beverage and Redemption stores are hosting a bottle drive for the effort at all five Twin Cities locations.


“Anyone who wants to donate their cans to the effort, just has to tell them to put the money in the kitty for the bells,” she said.

The bells have been stored at Cote Crane’s Auburn warehouse for the past year.

The four bells were cast in 1915 at the world-famous Paccard Bell Foundry in Annecy, France. Each is marked with Latin inscriptions, detailing for whom they were cast and the date and location of the church.

Two were built to commemorate the lives of Auburn businessman and alderman Pierre Provost and his family, longtime New Auburn baker Philippe DuPont and parish priest the Rev. Henri Gory.

Biron said the bells hold a huge place in her memory.

“All of my aunts and uncles were baptized at that church,” she said. “They did their first communion there, their confirmation there. Those bells rang for all of those occasions. And that means a lot for me. And every day at work, I’d hear them ring at noontime. They don’t anymore, and that’s a big hole.”

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