South Charlotte

Bell tower will answer a parishioner's last wish

Wilson Grove Baptist Church has a new bell tower overlooking its cemetery.

The bell hanging at the top is the same one that occupied the church's original steeple from 1881 until the late 1940s. The church is located at 6624 Wilgrove Mint Hill Road.

In 1948, a new brick sanctuary was built across the road and the bell was removed from the old wooden church before it was torn down to make space for parking.

The present brick sanctuary was built in 1959, but the old bell remained safely tucked away for 60 years. Then, a few weeks ago, it was polished and hung at the top of the new tower.

The project was made possible by the estate of Sarah Vinson, a lifelong member of Wilson Grove Baptist who died June 17, 2007, days shy of her 84th birthday.

In her will, Vinson requested the tower be dedicated to the memory of her daughter, Beth Vinson, who passed away seven months before her mother at age 41.

Beth Vinson was disabled from birth, and folks say Sarah Vinson's passion was caring for her daughter.

She also took care of her sister-in-law, Eula Campbell, who died just a few months before Beth.

In her will, Sarah Vinson expressed her wish to have a bell tower constructed and left the money for the project.

Church member Ron Fite oversaw construction of the tower. He said it was a big surprise when the call came from Vinson's lawyer.

Church member Hunter Wilson and several others did some research on other bell towers in the area. Then they selected architect Steve Poovey to design the tower and contracted with McGee Construction to build it.

The brick tower stands 24 feet tall and has a copper dome on top and copper accents throughout. Small, stained-glass windows surround the top. Benches are placed outside so folks who want to can sit and meditate.

Wilson estimates the project will cost about $50,000.

The church plans to formally dedicate the tower and ring the bell Sept. 28, at its annual homecoming celebration. From then on, it will ring on special occasions.

Sunday school teacher Annette Pace says the bell tower is a lasting sign of Sarah's devotion to her daughter and her way of comforting others.

“When Beth died, I was told that when they were going into the cemetery, Sarah said, ‘I wish we had a bell tower and that the bell was ringing,'” Pace said. “We figure that was what was on her heart when she put the request in her will.”