Two ex-governors help bring big bell to life to honor veterans

A man with a walker pulls a rope connected to a bell.
Veterans and former Minnesota Govs. Al Quie and Jesse Ventura ring a duplicate of the Liberty Bell on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol on Monday.
Evan Frost | MPR News

A 2,000-pound bell on the Minnesota Capitol complex grounds rang out Monday for one of the first times in 70 years to mark Veterans Day, with the help of two former governors who once wore military uniforms.

A replica of the famed Liberty Bell tolled several times on the state Capitol grounds. The bell cast in France sits outside the Veterans Services Building and was given to the state in 1950.

It hadn’t been functional until a nonprofit group petitioned to put the bell into action on four occasions: Memorial Day, New Year’s Day, the Fourth of July and Veteran’s Day, also known as Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I.

"Each state in the union has one. So one of our missions is to get all of those bells ringing,” said City of Bells co-founder Rebecca Sundquist. “They're just beautiful bells."

A few dozen people gathered on a wind-whipped plaza for a brief ceremony. Many were associated with the Veterans For Peace movement.

"We're here to ring bells in celebration and to honor those of you across the country who served, who made freedom possible," Sundquist said.

“We’re going to let freedom ring,” she said.

The first two to pull a cord attached to the bell’s clapper were former Govs. Al Quie and Jesse Ventura. Quie, 96, was in the Navy during World War II. Ventura, 68, was in the Navy in the Vietnam era.

Quie, propped up by a walker and held at the elbows, reared back to yank the rope.

"This is 2,000 pounds governor. You're going to have to let 'er rip,” Sundquist warned.

“We've got you governor,” Ventura assured Quie.

"You ready to go?" Quie said.

The deep echo drowned out the applause.

When Ventura got his turn, he pulled so hard he tugged the rope right off.

“Broke the bell. Broke the bell,” Ventura exclaimed to laughter.

The cord was quickly tied back on so a family of veterans could take their turn. Others chimed in with hand-held bells.

Before long, the crowd had dispersed. And the bell sat quiet again for at least 51 days.

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