Amelia Mudie (to right of sign) poses after ringing the bell Submitted photo

Megan Baker (left) and Nevaeh Burnham (right), happy grads. Submitted photo

CHESTERVILLE — For the second time in a month, on Sunday, June 14 the newly restored bell of the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House resounded across the valley to mark a special occasion.

This time it was to celebrate Chesterville’s graduating seniors. The previous event had been on Memorial Day, when the bell was rung in a “21-gong” salute for veterans and other remembered ones.

These bell-ringings mark the end of a silent winter for the Meeting House bell tower, which spent several months in Leeds being restored by Ron Castonguay with grant funds awarded to the non-profit Meeting House board by four different foundations.

At 7 p.m. last Sunday, Meeting House board member Linwood Worster rang the bell 12 times, in honor of the 12 Chesterville grads whom organizers were able to locate. He then invited the graduates to ring the bell if they desired. Graduating seniors Amelia Mudie and Nevaeh Burnham each took their turn wielding all their weight on the long rope extending from the steeple down to the main room, coaxing the 1,000 pound bell to sway enough to resonate. A third graduate, Megan Baker, chose to listen and look on.

Meeting House board member Roxanne Worster was behind the arrangement with Mt. Blue High School to deliver graduation gift cards for Chesterville grads along with their diplomas. Meanwhile Nevaeh Burnham, who graduated from Madison High, received hers at the Meeting House event.

The idea of honoring the seniors originated with Roxanne, who felt the students deserved something special in light of the difficulties they’ve experienced with a pandemic casting its shadow on their senior year. Four Board members and the Chesterville Extension Homemakers contributed to the students’ gifts.

Three graduates and their families attended the ceremony, as several townspeople looked on. “This is really a nice idea – they missed out on their prom and their traditional graduation, so at least they can have this,” observed Jim Grippe, a former Mt. Blue teacher who lives down the road. “This was wonderful,” said Carroll Corbin, a frequent participant in events at the building. “The Meeting House is a real magnet for Chesterville. Selectperson Tiffany Estabrook, next door neighbor to the Meeting House, reflected “To see the smiles and be a part of their special day was memorable for the students and our community!”

Historically an organ of communication signaling important events in the community, as well as church services and holidays, the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House bell is now ready to resume a role of celebration and recognition on behalf of the townspeople’s interests. The 1851 Meeting House is operated and maintained by a non-profit organization with the mission of making it available for community events of all types.

While the board had hoped to stage numerous events this season, with a special focus on children’s events funded by a grant for that purpose, plans have all become tentative due to uncertainties connected to the CoVID 19 virus. For the most recent information the website can be visited.

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