Bell ringer makes one last ring

Bell ringer makes one last ring

Shoppers across the area will soon be greeted by Salvation Army bell ringers outside of stores but there will be a different ring greeting them at the Fred Meyer in Coeur d’Alene this year.

The Red Kettle will be stationed outside the store as usual but for the first time in 10 years, “Santa” won’t be greeting customers.

Bill Conner earned the nickname Santa while standing outside the store ringing his bell for the last 10 years. The white hair and beard lend themselves well to the nickname.

Ringing the bell is something he always looks forward to.

“You get to meet new people every day and they always have something other than money, smiles,” said Conner.

The Salvation Army says Conner has raised more than $50,000 over the last decade. This year, his bell won’t be ringing.

The nearly 80 year old Korean War veteran has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and his health is failing.

When he realized he wouldn’t be able stand in the cold, ringing in holiday cheer, Conner called the Salvation Army to let them know they would have to find a replacement.

Friday morning the Salvation Army kicked off its kettle campaign with a breakfast at the Kroc Center.

They honored Conner with a slide show and an award, thanking him for his service. Then he was handed a bell and he rang it one last time.

“There’s more to Christmas than lights and decorations,” said Conner. “It’s our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

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