If you’re my age, you remember a popular series in Readers Digest magazine called “My Most Unforgettable Character.” We asked folks to reminisce about people who were memorable in their lives. The “Character” may not necessarily be related to handbells or even music, but may just be a memorable person who won’t be forgotten.

Coordinated by Stephanie Wiltse

Krystle Hara lives in Kailua, Hawaii, and rings with Honolulu Bronze.

Tammera Missel lives in Smithfield, Virginia, and is taking a break from directing to work on her master’s degree in music and worship Studies. She is a member of Virginia Handbell Consort, an auditioned community choir in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Laura Swafford lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and is senior research scientist/program manager at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. She rings in the Westminster Ringers of Baltimore.

Stephanie Wiltse lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is music director of the community groups Embellish and Campana, and directs the Allegro Ringers of Calvin Christian Reformed Church.

Kathleen Wissinger is from McGaheysville, Virginia. Kath has taught Handbell Classes at Redeemer Classical School (Harrisonburg, Virginia) and is artistic director for “MOSAIC” (a community handbell ensemble) and Spectrum (her church’s youth ringing group).

Ann Wood lives in Escanaba, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She is music director of First Presbyterian Church in Escanaba, is music director of the Bay de Noc Choral Society, and is organizing a new community handbell ensemble, Delta Bells.

Stephanie: I don’t usually participate, but I’ll get the ball rolling. Lee Afdahl has been a huge influence in my life since the day 37 years ago when he handed me a G6 and A6 and changed my life forever. Not only has he been an influence through music and handbells, he has lived an example of leadership through love, positivity, and humor that I have always hoped to emulate even in the smallest way.

Krystle: One memorable person in my handbell life is Leslie Ward, and I don’t even know if she knows that. She was the first person I rang with who I saw “dance” while ringing, and moved her feet and body much more than anyone else. She always looked so joyful while ringing that I picked it up too. It’s helped me a lot in the years since, especially once I started ringing in ensembles.

Ann: Ed Richards was the DoM at my church 37 years ago (coincidentally the same time as Stephanie’s introduction to handbells). When my church purchased three octaves of bells, Ed suggested they invite me to become the handbell director. I served as accompanist for the Bay de Noc Choral Society when he was the conductor, and he taught me much of what I know about choral singing. He played in my first adult handbell choir and encouraged me along the way.When he moved out of the area, I inherited both of his conducting positions, and I’m still grateful for his tutelage and friendship.

Kath: My junior high choral and high school band director, David Finkham, was such a dedicated musician and over many years mentored all his kids—including my brother, my sister, and me. He also directed bells at my church, but it was only much later when I joined AGEHR that I found out his wife, Jeanette, worked for the Guild (Now HMA).

Tammera: Mary Ward was my superintendent throughout junior high and high school. When I made it into Region Band as a seventh-grader, she was the only school representative that came to support me. She is an amazing lady who supported the school district in any way she could. I will never forget how she supported me then, and still supports me now.

Laura: I would say my high school chemistry teacher, Frieda Coleman. I don’t remember her teaching us much—mostly I remember her telling us stories of what happened over the weekend (“So there I was, chasing the dog all around the house, suds flying everywhere, while Colin was spreading slime on the wall, if you can believe it, while my husband was just sitting there on the couch reading a book!”) or experimenting in the lab (“I’ve never tried this before. Let’s see what happens.”) or even the beer perpetually fermenting in back of the classroom. But she must have managed to teach us something, because every year her students placed at the top of the state chemistry competitions.
When I went to college and had an absolutely terrible chemistry teacher my freshman year, it was because of Mrs. Coleman that I knew I couldn’t be as stupid as I felt that semester, so I kept on out of spite. And that is how I became a chemist.

The late Nancy Hascall

Stephanie: Another unforgettable person in my life was solo ringer and composer Nancy Hascall. Back in the early days of Handbell-L, there were a lot of friendships growing between people who had never met in person. One summer my family and I were going to a conference in Seattle, so I e-mailed Nancy and asked if there might be a possibility of meeting her. In her typically kind and welcoming manner, she invited us to stay with her and visit for a couple of nights. My family and I did some sight-seeing between

Seattle and Portland for a few days, and then arrived at the Hascall home. They weren’t home at the time, but left a message to say which room we were staying in and to make ourselves at home. We still hadn’t met in person, so their first impression as they arrived from their errands was to find my husband, me, and our two boys all sacked out, snoring on the bed in the guest room.

After Glen treated us to a feast of Pacific salmon, Nancy and I stayed up and talked into the wee hours. The next day I met Karin McDonough (Dietterich at the time) and got to watch Nancy and Karin perform their amazing mirror-image duet of Nancy’s arrangement of “Joshua!” It was an inspirational trip to say the least.

The pickle ornament

Kath: Nancy Hascall and I toured while she was in Virginia for an Area 3 festival. We stopped at a McDonalds for salads, and asked for some dill pickles. The young attendant gave us a full cup of pickles, which we found hysterical. Then we went to my friend’s brownstone in NW DC for the night, knocked at the door, and there was nobody home. Then I realized we were one block off. So we headed to the next street, and the remembered we’d left the cup of pickles on a stranger’s front porch! I gave her a pickle ornament for Christmas. Anytime it came up, we would dissolve into laughter.

Stephanie: I don’t usually participate, but I’ll get the ball rolling. Lee Afdahl has been a huge influence in my life since the day 37 years ago when he handed me a G6 and A6 and changed my life forever. Not only has he been an influence through music and handbells, he has lived an example of leadership through love, positivity, and humor that I have always hoped to emulate even in the smallest way.

Krystle: One memorable person in my handbell life is Leslie Ward, and I don’t even know if she knows that. She was the first person I rang with who I saw “dance” while ringing, and moved her feet and body much more than anyone else. She always looked so joyful while ringing that I picked it up too. It’s helped me a lot in the years since, especially once I started ringing in ensembles.

Ann: Ed Richards was the DoM at my church 37 years ago (coincidentally the same time as Stephanie’s introduction to handbells). When my church purchased three octaves of bells, Ed suggested they invite me to become the handbell director. I served as accompanist for the Bay de Noc Choral Society when he was the conductor, and he taught me much of what I know about choral singing. He played in my first adult handbell choir and encouraged me along the way.When he moved out of the area, I inherited both of his conducting positions, and I’m still grateful for his tutelage and friendship.

Kath: My junior high choral and high school band director, David Finkham, was such a dedicated musician and over many years mentored all his kids—including my brother, my sister, and me. He also directed bells at my church, but it was only much later when I joined AGEHR that I found out his wife, Jeanette, worked for the Guild (Now HMA).

Tammera: Mary Ward was my superintendent throughout junior high and high school. When I made it into Region Band as a seventh-grader, she was the only school representative that came to support me. She is an amazing lady who supported the school district in any way she could. I will never forget how she supported me then, and still supports me now.

Laura: I would say my high school chemistry teacher, Frieda Coleman. I don’t remember her teaching us much—mostly I remember her telling us stories of what happened over the weekend (“So there I was, chasing the dog all around the house, suds flying everywhere, while Colin was spreading slime on the wall, if you can believe it, while my husband was just sitting there on the couch reading a book!”) or experimenting in the lab (“I’ve never tried this before. Let’s see what happens.”) or even the beer perpetually fermenting in back of the classroom. But she must have managed to teach us something, because every year her students placed at the top of the state chemistry competitions.
When I went to college and had an absolutely terrible chemistry teacher my freshman year, it was because of Mrs. Coleman that I knew I couldn’t be as stupid as I felt that semester, so I kept on out of spite. And that is how I became a chemist.

The late Nancy Hascall

Stephanie: Another unforgettable person in my life was solo ringer and composer Nancy Hascall. Back in the early days of Handbell-L, there were a lot of friendships growing between people who had never met in person. One summer my family and I were going to a conference in Seattle, so I e-mailed Nancy and asked if there might be a possibility of meeting her. In her typically kind and welcoming manner, she invited us to stay with her and visit for a couple of nights. My family and I did some sight-seeing between

Seattle and Portland for a few days, and then arrived at the Hascall home. They weren’t home at the time, but left a message to say which room we were staying in and to make ourselves at home. We still hadn’t met in person, so their first impression as they arrived from their errands was to find my husband, me, and our two boys all sacked out, snoring on the bed in the guest room.

After Glen treated us to a feast of Pacific salmon, Nancy and I stayed up and talked into the wee hours. The next day I met Karin McDonough (Dietterich at the time) and got to watch Nancy and Karin perform their amazing mirror-image duet of Nancy’s arrangement of “Joshua!” It was an inspirational trip to say the least.

The pickle ornament

Kath: Nancy Hascall and I toured while she was in Virginia for an Area 3 festival. We stopped at a McDonalds for salads, and asked for some dill pickles. The young attendant gave us a full cup of pickles, which we found hysterical. Then we went to my friend’s brownstone in NW DC for the night, knocked at the door, and there was nobody home. Then I realized we were one block off. So we headed to the next street, and the remembered we’d left the cup of pickles on a stranger’s front porch! I gave her a pickle ornament for Christmas. Anytime it came up, we would dissolve into laughter.

Krystle Hara lives in Kailua, Hawaii, and rings with Honolulu Bronze.

Tammera Missel lives in Smithfield, Virginia, and is taking a break from directing to work on her master’s degree in music and worship Studies. She is a member of Virginia Handbell Consort, an auditioned community choir in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Laura Swafford lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and is senior research scientist/program manager at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, DC. She rings in the Westminster Ringers of Baltimore.

Stephanie Wiltse lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is music director of the community groups Embellish and Campana, and directs the Allegro Ringers of Calvin Christian Reformed Church.

Kathleen Wissinger is from McGaheysville, Virginia. Kath has taught Handbell Classes at Redeemer Classical School (Harrisonburg, Virginia) and is artistic director for “MOSAIC” (a community handbell ensemble) and Spectrum (her church’s youth ringing group).

Ann Wood lives in Escanaba, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She is music director of First Presbyterian Church in Escanaba, is music director of the Bay de Noc Choral Society, and is organizing a new community handbell ensemble, Delta Bells.


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