, Salem, MA

May 24, 2013

Heard Around Town: A short story about a little bell


---- — SALEM — Earlier this month, the Mass General/North Shore Cancer Center in Danvers held a dedication ceremony for, of all things, a bell.

The little bell is inscribed “From the Friends of Maureen Clark” in honor of a Salem wife, mother and businesswoman who went through a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation at MGH in Boston.

Clark donated the bell so cancer patients on the North Shore could have the same experience she had last year when she went for radiation treatment at Mass General in Boston.

The first time Clark saw the bell in Boston, it was hanging on a wall near a computer. She assumed it was there in case someone needed help checking in. On her first visit, she learned differently.

“The bell rang and people started clapping,” she said.

The other patients in the waiting room sat motionless for a few seconds, before breaking into smiles and applause.

She asked about the bell and was told it was rung three times when a cancer patient finished a round of radiation.

“To me, it was very emotional,” she said. “It just kind of symbolized that you had completed something. It didn’t mean people were better. It just meant they had (done) their radiation.”

That’s about the time she fell in love with the bell.

Clark, the owner of Marketplace Quilts on Canal Street, immediately thought about the bell when friends asked if they could hold a fundraiser for her. She was reluctant to accept, but finally agreed as long as part of the proceeds went to purchase a similar captain’s bell for the North Shore Cancer Center.

Last November, at the Moose, several hundred friends gathered for “Bra-Vo Mo,” a celebration of a brave and caring woman who had been through a lot. In keeping with Clark’s sense of humor, everybody wore a wildly decorated bra outside their clothing — even the guys.

Lots of friends came that night, including parents and staff from Saltonstall School, where Clark had been PTO president, and business people, including dear friends from the Lobster Shanty and Passage to India restaurants, located near her store’s former locations on Front Street and in Artists’ Row.

More funds for the bell were donated by friends from Seacoast Quilters in Marblehead.

When Clark finished her radiation last year, she rang the bell three times: once for family, once for friends and once for the community that rallied around her. As she rang it, her sister, Kathy, stepped outside her house in Maine and clanged her own bell.

Two weeks ago, when the North Shore Cancer Center dedicated its bell, Clark was the first to ring it. This time she rang it four times, adding one for the care givers.

The bell cannot cure the disease, Clark said, but there’s something about the chime, some special meaning it has for people fighting so hard to beat a disease that is so deadly.

“It gave me hope,” she said.

Good guy

We got a note the other day from someone who wanted to share a story about Dan Shuman, the owner of Salem Cycle.

Folks at a local day care center contacted Shuman recently to ask about replacing the running stroller the Woolfenden family of Salem lost at the Boston Marathon. Stephen Woolfenden and his young son were both injured in the bombing.

Shuman offered to replace it at cost, and then went one better. He reached out to Thule, the makers of Chariot Running Strollers, and the company offered to donate its best stroller and accessories to the family.

There are a million stories of similar small kindnesses following the tragedy. We thought we’d share this one.

School honor

Ken Rothwell got a nice award this week.

The owner of Ken’s Kickin’ Chicken, who has donated more food than some small nations consume in a year, received the Giving Tree Award at a school awards ceremony. It’s only the latest honor for the popular Salem chef.

This spring, the American Red Cross named Ken one of its “heroes.”

Happy birthday

One of our local treasures turned 100 last month.

Leon Masse, model builder extraordinaire, finished his model of The First Church in time for his centennial. This is only the latest re-creation in a list that includes the Salem Depot, The House of the Seven Gables and the old Salem Armory, which is on exhibit inside the National Park Service Visitor Center.

Masse lived on Fairmount Street in Salem for years before moving a few months ago to Putnam Farm at Danvers, a senior living facility.

Oh yeah. He’s living over there with his bride, Jeannette, who’s 101.

Color matters

State Treasurer Steven Grossman visited Salem High School on Monday to publicize a financial literacy curriculum the state is trying out in several school systems. He came to Salem because the high school has offered a “Money Matters” course for years and is getting some of the state funding.

During Grossman’s visit, someone remarked on his orange tie, which would have been the right color to wear had he been visiting Beverly High, but not Salem, whose school colors are red and black.

Mayor Kim Driscoll tried to bail him out by noting that Salem State’s colors are blue and orange.

But, still, not the wisest move for a man considering a run for governor.

Veterans benefit

Although it hasn’t received much publicity, the Park & Recreation Commission recently voted to charge veterans the same rate as seniors, which will give them a break on everything from parking permits to a round of golf at Olde Salem Greens.

You can thank Tim Ready for the kind gesture. He brought the idea to the board.

Tom Dalton can be reached at