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      Carolyn Whitlock

      Although Winston Jones completed his life several years ago, his memory is kept alive by members of the ABA. I have just found a write-up about him and wanted to share it. The story is from The Denver Post.

      “Ding-a-ling” collected, exhibited 8,000 bells
      By Claire Martin
      Denver Post Staff Writer
      Posted: 08/27/2006 01:00:00 AM MDTAdd a Comment | Updated: 8 years ago

      Click photo to enlarge
      Winston H. Jones rings a giant bell in his vast collection in 1981. Jones, who died… (Post file)

      Winston H. Jones, who died at age 92 on Aug. 14 in Evergreen, spent his life filling his home and yard with a vast collection of bells that he tolled each July 4 in a tradition that began with a request from President John F. Kennedy.

      At noon each Independence Day, Jones and volunteers rang every outside bell in his collection, creating a clangor that reverberated in the bones of the people who gathered to listen. In 1995, National Public Radio carried a live broadcast of the tradition, with Jones exclaiming theatrically, “It’s going to be wild. Get ready, get ready! Here we go!”

      Born on May 15, 1914, Jones was adopted as a toddler by Blanche Jones, the well-heeled, childless wife of Hastings, Neb., automotive distributorship executive Arthur H. Jones.

      His fascination with bells began in boyhood, when he received a bicycle with a bell on its handlebars as a birthday gift. The bicycle interested him less than its merry bell, which remained in his collection until he died.

      Jones continued amassing bells throughout his youth, adding to his stash throughout his years at Hastings College. After graduating, he traveled as an actor and makeup artist with summer-stock repertory theater companies and later toured with one of David O. Selznick’s regional theater troupes. In his travels, Jones never missed an opportunity to look for bells in antique shops, secondhand stores and estate sales.

      During World War II, he served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps. He liked to tell people that he frustrated commanding officers by filling his footlocker with bells instead of his military-issued belongings, a story his cousin Jack Osborne considered apocryphal.

      Upon his discharge from the Army, Jones and his already sizable bell collection moved to Evergreen where his parents owned an imposing stone and log house on 36 acres they bought in 1919.

      He found a job at Denver hardware wholesaler Hendrie & Bolthoff and married fellow employee Erma Ament.

      In 1953, Jones’ parents died, and he inherited a comfortable trust fund. He and his wife added a basement room to the Evergreen house, enclosed the once-screened porch, and Jones threw himself into his avocation.

      In 1957, he joined the American Bell Association, established an ABA chapter in Colorado, and opened his collection – by then 3,000 bells – to the public as the International Bell Museum.

      The museum was housed in two rooms of Jones’ imposing home, with an outdoor exhibit installed on the front lawn.

      “I’m the ding-a-ling with all the ding-dongs,” he liked to say grandly, investing his words with the elocution once brought to his acting roles.

      The sheer scope of his resonant trove – more than 100 bells hung in Jones’ front yard – left visitors dumbfounded.

      By the time he died, his collection exceeded 8,000 bells, according to cousin and executor Jack Osborne.

      The museum collection included tea bells, church bells, tower school bells, locomotive bells, ship’s bells, temple bells and gongs, cheap souvenir bells, dinner bells and hand bells.

      Jones owned a bell from a cargo ship used in the early 1900s, a bronze French desk bell that chimed when he turned the button on top, and an Anglican church bell cast in 1727 during the year King George II took the throne in Great Britain.

      “He had bells that covered every facet of that hobby, from those with absolutely no monetary or historic value, to bells of such major historic significance that they are invaluable,” Osborne said.

      “To Winston, a bell was a bell. If he was actually going to spend his own money on a bell, he probably was somewhat particular. But people gave him a lot of bells, because a bell makes a practical gift for someone with a bell collection.

      Even those little bells, he labeled – who gave it to him, where it came from. He’d try to make something out of it.”

      Jones knew by heart each bell’s own history – where it was cast and how it came to his collection – as well as its social context.

      He took enormous satisfaction in recounting the time that, browsing in a junk store, he recognized a bell valued at $750 by the American Bell Association. Jones asked to see it.

      “Give me a buck and a half and you can have it,” the shopkeeper snapped.

      “I never got two bucks out of my pocket so fast in all my life,” Jones triumphantly concluded.

      Among Jones’ most prized bells was the enormous 4-foot bell that once summoned and dismissed generations of Hastings High School students, and a hand-painted cowbell from an Austrian innkeeper for whom Jones worked one summer.

      Jones owned the Ludlow Mine bell that tolled for the miners who became victims of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, when 20 striking miners and their families were shot and fatally burned. The Ludlow Mine bell was mounted on the stone stairs enclosing the vast staircase at the museum’s entrance, along with a placard detailing the roles that bells played throughout history.

      Jones donated his collection to Hastings College, his alma mater.

      His wife, Erma Ament Jones, died in 1972. They had no children.

      Staff writer Claire Martin can be reached at 303-954-1477 or

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