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Jeff Smith's Eightieth Birthday Peal

by Don Morrison

While Jeff Smith generally finds peals too long to be a lot of fun, and prefers ringing quarters, he was convinced that it would be amusing to ring a handbell peal for his own eightieth birthday. While scheduling issues precluded ringing it on the exactly correct day, it was viewed as a transferrable feast, and a band assembled the preceding weekend and rattled off a good peal of Kent Major, without any difficulties, at the first attempt.

This was a doubly auspicious weekend, as it was the closest weekend to the thirty-sixth anniversary of the dedication of the tower bells in Kalamazoo College's Stetson Chapel. While emeritus now, as a mathematics professor at Kalamazoo Jeff established the band there in the 1970s. Originally confined to handbells, it was for many years the most active and advanced handbell band in North America. Jeff's enthusiasm and drive led to the tower bells being obtained, and following their dedication in 1984 Kalamazoo became, and remains, one of the most active towers in North America. There is still an active handbell band as well, in which Jeff continues to play a major role.

Over a thousand quarters have been rung at Kalamazoo, roughly equal numbers in hand and in tower. Countless ringers have learned at Kalamazoo over the last three and a half decades. Over a hundred of them have advanced to the point where they've rung quarter peals. None of this would ever have happened without Jeff's infectious enthusiasm.

Between ringing opportunties we were all kindly taken out to a birthday feast by Carol Smith, Jeff's wife. While never induced to take up ringing herself, Carol has always been a good friend to all the ringers in, or visiting, Kalamazoo.

As the weekend had been planned to allow multiple attempts for the peal, if necessary, a lot of ringing time was thus made available by the quick success. Saturday afternoon was occupied with further handbell ringing, including a quarter of Double Norwich, a first in the method in hand for two stalwarts of the local band; and a quarter of St Clement's. Apart from a brief touch of Original Royal in hand, Sunday morning's ringing slot was transferred to tower bells. A nice quarter of Carlisle Surprise Minor was scored, the first in that method at Kalamazoo, and for all those ringing inside; and ending the weekend as it began, with smiles all around.

Posted Jun 10, 2010

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