For decades, the bell rang at 8:30 a.m. to announce the start of the school day for Franklin students. It fell silent when the community’s last school closed in 1966.

For decades, the bell rang at 8:30 a.m. to announce the start of the school day for Franklin students. It fell silent when the community’s last school closed in 1966.

On Monday, the bell rang again, this time from a new memorial tower in the Franklin Community Park. This site was the location of one of Franklin’s early grade schools, with the Franklin High School, a two-story brick building, a short distance away. When the high school closed in 1928, the grade school moved to that building, which was the bell’s original home.

The bell was purchased by a former student who wishes to remain anonymous, in memory of all those who attended Franklin schools.

“Dianna Morrison was instrumental in negotiating the purchase,” said Phyllis Bitner, a former student.

The memorial tower was designed and built by John Nepote, former Franklin student who now lives in Frontenac, and Ray Hamblin, Franklin. The two are also responsible for other brick work around the community.

“Ray would say that we needed to build something, so I’d go home and draw something up,” Nepote said.

He enrolled in Franklin Grade School in 1937, and graduated from eighth grade in 1945.

“School went from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. back then,” Nepote said. “We played a lot of soccer back then, and had a soccer field at the south end of the school. When we graduated, we went over to Girard to get our diplomas.”

He and Harold White both recalled ringing the school bell.

“The seventh and eighth grade boys also got to haul in the coal,” added White.

Girls didn’t get to ring the bell. “That was before we were liberated,” Bitner said.

However, she, Norine Nepote Laird and Margaret Cambursano Kennedy, also former Franklin students, were allowed a turn at the bell cord on Monday.

“I didn’t think I’d hear that bell again,” said Kennedy.

Others who donated their time and talents to the project were Don Lipasek, whose ancestors attended the school, Marvin Robarts, owner of Robarts Welding in Franklin, Melvin Patrick, Henry and Drew Ashbacher and Bill and Dianna Morrison, Franklin. 

Funds for the foundation were donated by Gen. Joe Scepansky, Houston, Texas, and Antoinette (Folker) Blazic, Warren, Mich., both former students. Funds and materials for the tower were donated by John and Colleen Nepote. Pittsburg Steel sandblasted the bell.