2023 – Cyndy Patterson
Cyndy Patterson served on the Area 10 board as Treasurer, 1998-2002, as Secretary, 2013-2016, and as Oregon State Chair, 2018-2020. Cyndy attended National Seminar yearly, honing her skills as a handbell musician. She also participated in Distinctly Bronze West since its inception in 2008, and other advanced ringing events around the US and Canada.
In the early 1990s, Cyndy began her directing career with Shepherd’s Bells, the combined handbell choir of Central Point and Medford Presbyterian churches. She was a founding member of Tintinnabulation, a handbell ensemble at the Medford church. Cyndy was a handbell solo artist and was a founding member and co-director of the Rogue Ringers in Medford Oregon in 2007. As a director of bell choirs, she championed the art of handbell ringing in her choirs and through teaching at Siskiyou Summit Handbell and AREA 10 conferences.
Cyndy constantly worked to improve her ringing skills and shared her knowledge freely. She was truly an inspiration to many in Area 10 and beyond. Unfortunately, Cyndy passed at the end of March 2020 from pancreatic cancer. She is missed.
2014 – Blanche Kangas
2002 – Barbara R. “Bobbie” Benjamin
This article appeared in the July 2011 NW Campanologist.
April 20, 1925 – June 8, 2011
by Alice Lewis
Challenges come our way frequently, but none are more difficult than saying goodbye to a loved one. Bobbie Benjamin was a handbell advocate long ago when few even knew what a handbell was. It is time to pay a tribute to her and share some thoughts about this person that truly loved bells. This writing is a composite of my own experiences along with those of Blanche Kangas, Pam Johnson, Marlene Anderson and Brian Tervo, and even Bobbie herself from a saved Area 10 document about the conception of what is now Greater Puget Sound Handbell Conference. Bobbie Benjamin became involved in local level activities that generated long lasting changes in our own Area 10. As a director at Kent United Methodist Church, she saw the need for education, not only for her own group, but others that she knew about in surrounding areas. We all had early handbell activity with Bobbie, and we all exclaim her as having a most remarkable influence on us.
Some of the earliest memories come from Pam Johnson, currently the handbell director at Kent United Methodist Church. She began ringing when Bobbie founded the bell program there in 1984 with 2 octaves of bells. It remains to be discovered just how Bobbie’s interest and knowledge of handbells began, but she had enough to increase their bell set to five octaves and an added four octaves of chimes by the time she stepped down from that position in 1994. Bobbie also began a group for seniors in 1990 called Joyful Ringers, and continued leading them until 2002. In Pam’s words, Bobbie Benjamin was her mentor.
Blanche Kangas remembers Bobbie from the early 80’s at one of the earliest of the new founded Kent educational workshops led by Waggoner. She remembers that Bobbie came to Kent from Ohio where she had been a church organist. Blanche taught a class on starting a handbell choir and Bobbie attended. This was when KUMC had ordered the original 2 octaves of bells, and Bobbie was so excited. Bobbie couldn’t ask enough questions, and Blanche remembers spending time with her after the class trying to answer all the questions Bobbie had. She believes that Bobbie was one of the most enthusiastic and ardent supporters of handbells she has known. She helped her with the Allured 2 week-workshop in Issaquah at Lutheran Bible Institute. Bobbie worked the booth at several Area and National Conventions and they roomed together several times at Kay Cook’s Handbell Exploration in Phoenix/Scottsdale.
Brian Tervo says that as a youngster, Bobbie was among the first of the group of people he got to know after he was first introduced to handbells. The first time he remembered seeing her was as the director of a youth handbell festival, and shortly after, while filling in for her group when she was directing her adult handbell choir at Kent UMC. Little did he know at that time that she would be instrumental in generating his first handbell directing job at Kent UMC just a few years later in 1995.
I owe a great deal to Bobbie since much of the joy I experience today with both ringing and directing handbell groups was only possible through her help. As you read this, I wonder if you have been directly affected by this champion to all ringers.
Both Brian and I were occasional to mostly regular substitutes for Joyful Ringers, the senior group. These rehearsals were more than just getting together and ringing bells. They planned lunch after many of their rehearsals and had the opportunity to socialize and share stories with each other. Regularly they traveled to local Senior Centers for Christmas concerts with decorated tables and all. The Joyful Ringers were truly a special group which would not have been possible without Bobbie’s passion and love for the instrument and for people. Kangas tells about this senior choir being one of the Promenade concerts at the AGEHR Director Seminar when it was in Spokane. They were one of the big “hits” of the seminar because it was obvious that they were enjoying what they were doing and that handbells could be just plain fun. For several years for a fund raiser they made lighted Christmas decorations using plastic glasses and the mini light tree light strings. I remember her frustration when local retail stores ran out of plastic cups and light strings so they had trouble finding supplies for all of the orders they had.
Marlene Anderson remembers her first encounter with Bobbie was when planning her second or third Children’s Handbell Festival with Nancy Telford. They wanted to involve more leadership and asked Bobbie to join efforts with them. Bobbie agreed to host the next Children’s Handbell Festival at her church and everyone had a great time with many kids there. They had several good laughs about the trials and tribulations of working with children.
My introduction to Bobbie Benjamin was a bit different, but just as magical. We met at a Greater Puget Sound Conference in 1993. I missed the inaugural events, but through Bobbie’s interest and persistence, a prized event has been in place since 1986. That first year, Bobbie, Don Walstad and Sharon Meeds met to form the very first ‘GPS’ with their own groups. It started at the Baptist Church of Kent with groups from the three churches. They rang solos and had a couple of classes. The following year, other directors had heard about it and wanted more. Education was premium and Bobbie was certainly willing to generate a place for other handbell enthusiasts to learn more about this fantastic medium. There were so many directors interested the next year that they had to turn people away because space was limited. That year each director had a turn at directing a massed group. This same group of leaders decided to also have a Children’s Handbell Choir Festival each year, perhaps when Brian first met Bobbie.
In 1991, the same committee decided that they would open this festival to as many choirs that they could handle. Following a format used by Area 10, they managed registration, but they needed a name. Since the groups were gathering from all over the Puget Sound area, the name of Greater Puget Sound Handbell Festival was established. It was AGEHR that removed all ‘festival’ names as ‘amusement’, and the name was changed to a Conference. Bobbie was serving her first term as Washington State Chair at the time, and thus became the Chairman of the event. Marlene Anderson was the first clinician, and there were even a few vendors (I wish we had a list of that, too).
With the Area 10 Conference each even numbered year, it was decided that GPS would commence on the odd numbered years so that ringers could attend a large educational event every year, and it became a regular part of the Washington Chair position. The next GPS Conference was in 1993 at Kent Meridian High School, with Kevin McChesney as clinician. This was the beginning of my experience with GPS and with Bobbie. Christine Henley was the Chair and began her term as the next Washington State Chair later that year. I’m remembering at least 100-150 ringers in attendance, with the same concept of massed ringing and classes. Everyone enjoyed the opportunity to ring all day long and learn about handbells. Greater Puget Sound Handbell Conferences have had between 150 – 400 ringers in attendance ever since, thanks to the innovation of our friend, Bobbie Benjamin.
In 1997, with Henley still as event chair, a still larger site was chosen and two clinicians shared the duties. Now there were two levels of ability to address. At the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, David Weck led the Coppers and Norma Taubert Brown led the Tins. Few knew that Norma was seriously ill, but, by a miracle, God gave her the strength to lead at this conference and share her gifts with all the participants one last time. She passed away less than three weeks after the conference. Her death affected the planners of this event deeply, and the now educated ringers, so Bobbie proceeded to “do something about it.” Bobbie wanted “someone to write a handbell tribute to Norma for her great courage and dedication.” Through the Overtones, Bobbie requested anonymous donations to a special account to cover the cost of a commissioned piece. Bobbie contacted Arnold Sherman, who was also a friend of Norma’s. From this most emotional GPS, a classic handbell composition was penned by Mr. Sherman titled Grazioso. It had its first public performance at Greater Puget Sound in 2001 with Mr. Sherman directing as clinician. The piece has been on the music list of events in our Area and nationally.
A most touching moment was seeing Bobbie ring a part in Grazioso at the 2007 GPS with Arnold Sherman directing. I expect this was the last time she had the opportunity to ring handbells in public. She was there in her wheelchair, mostly because of her friend, Arnold, and being able to hear this most special piece again. I set her up with a music stand and G/A6 and she just beamed, and her eyes glowed with emotion. She was so attentive, still, that I asked Mr. Sherman if it would be all right if she played the piece from the end of my tables. Of course, he thought that would be wonderful. The pictures included with this article are from that concert performance.
People in her process of requesting help rarely could refuse. It was she that talked me into beginning my history with Area 10 as Washington Chair in 2002. She was always there to answer questions and guide me to independence. It was a delight to take my own choir to her retirement residence to play a Christmas concert. She was very happy, and was still trying to organize some chime ringers there, and as recently as last February/March had talked to Blanche Kangas at Bell Buggy Express about how much a 2-octave chime set would cost!
She gave 10 years of her life to Area 10 Board, first as Washington representative, and then through the chairs. One of her first jobs was to divide the state into districts and get a person in each district to act as chair in order to try to get handbell workshops or Read N Rings happening all over the state. She made the logo for the AGEHR big anniversary celebration that was used at Area 10 events. The festival was in Tacoma that year with Michael Keller and Lee Afdahl as the clinicians at Pacific Lutheran University. She did the masthead re-design for the Campanologist.
Area 10 positions served by Bobbie:
- Washington Chair 1990-94
- Conference on-site Chair at PLU 1994
- Chair Elect 1994-96
- Chair 1996-98
- Past Chair 1998-2000
She was presented with the Area 10 Distinguished Service Award in 2002.
During the last years of the Joyful Ringers senior group, I had a nearly weekly opportunity to substitute for them, and continued the relationship with Bobbie that had grown precious to me, and so many others. Her last few weeks were a struggle, as it is for many at this stage of life. About two weeks before her passing, I had the awesome opportunity to visit with her at the nursing home. Seemingly sleeping, it was my first thought not to disturb her. Alas, this perky lady was only ‘resting her eyes’ and she knew someone was there watching her ‘rest’. She looked straight at me with nearly bright eyes and puddled with soft tears of joy. She had her clear mind and knew who I was. Her first reaction was to grasp my hands, and there we gazed for the longest time. Unable to communicate well, there was a whiteboard handy for messages. I wrote a note about the latest Greater Puget Sound Conference and that there were a lot of handbell friends that were thinking about her and praying for her. She gripped even firmer in affirmation. Truly, she loved handbells and those that ring them. We will all miss you, Bobbie Benjamin, but know you are ringing in heaven.