Former Port Angeles Mayor Karen Rogers, right, points out damage to the Liberty Bell replica inflicted by vandals as Clallam County Veterans Association President Gary Velie, left, looks on at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Friday in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Former Port Angeles Mayor Karen Rogers, right, points out damage to the Liberty Bell replica inflicted by vandals as Clallam County Veterans Association President Gary Velie, left, looks on at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Friday in Port Angeles. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

First veterans’ ceremony conducted as fence goes up around Liberty Bell replica

PORT ANGELES — Fencing around the Liberty Bell replica at Veterans Memorial Park is mostly complete and is expected to be finished in mid-September, said an organizer of the effort to save the bell from vandals.

Decorative wrought iron panels now surround three sides of the pavilion that covers the bell. A six-paneled gate across the front is still to be installed.

Organizer Karen Rogers, former Port Angeles mayor and City Council member, said Friday that the gate will be adorned with the silhouettes of soldiers.

“It’s a beautiful arched gate,” Rogers said. “It will have silhouette soldiers facing each other so it looks like it’s guarding the bell.

“It’s going to be a fitting tribute to the veterans here.”

The gates in front of the bell, a 1976 replica of the Liberty Bell, are opened for the monthly ceremony honoring veterans who had died in the previous month and could also be opened for school groups or other interested people by request.

In recent years, Veterans Park has been a sheltered spot for homeless people and vagrants, some of whom had vandalized the park.

Vandalism to the bell is evident with portions of the wooden support structure carved into and chipped away. The bell itself has been marred by graffiti.

Clallam County Veterans Association President Gary Velie said Friday, after the first remembrance ceremony with much of the fence in place, that the fence was a necessary addition.

“It’s going to stop the destruction,” he said.

The fence is being installed by Port Angeles sculptors Bob Stokes and Gray Lucier, Rogers said. It was funded through $15,000 in donations and in-kind work.

The city Parks and Recreation Department approved the project but said it had to rely on donations rather than the city for funding.

Once the bell is enclosed, lights and security cameras are to be installed to keep watch over the bell. Rogers said an effort to restore the bell and repair damage caused by vandals would follow this fall.

Gerald Rettella, head of the Olympic Peninsula Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, led Friday’s monthly remembrance ceremony. The ringing of the bell — one toll for every deceased veteran — is central to rite.

Afterward, Rettella said he believed that protecting the Liberty Bell replica was a priority.

“As veterans, this is our ground and it shouldn’t be defaced,” he said.

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Photojournalist Keith Thorpe can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 59050, or at [email protected].

Veterans Gary Velie, left, and Gerald Rettela conduct a rememberance ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park on Friday that included reading names of deceased veterans while the Liberty Bell was rung for each name. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Veterans Gary Velie, left, and Gerald Rettela conduct a rememberance ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park on Friday that included reading names of deceased veterans while the Liberty Bell was rung for each name. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

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