Allen Fehling and other parents don’t need to know who stole Live Oak Elementary School’s historic bell last week. Today, they’re just pleading that the school’s century-old icon be returned.
“It means the world to us,” Fehling said. “Just drop it off and I’ll be happy. I’ll take care of it. Just bring it back.”
The bell was stolen last week after being pried loose from a concrete block, then tied to a chain and possibly dragged away, according to Deputy Les Garcia, spokesman for the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
“Detectives are actively investigating the theft and have contacted all area recyclers to be on the lookout for the bell,” said Garcia, adding police believe it may have been stolen to sell as scrap metal.
Principal Marianne Varni said that on April 16, a student asked her what happened to the bell. Varni went outside, and that’s when she discovered it was gone.
“I’m saddened to think that someone would take it,” she said.
Live Oak Elementary School acquired the bell more than 100 years ago and dedicated it to World War II veterans in 1950. Varni said the bell represents Live Oak’s history and sense of community.
In recent years, it became the center of a new tradition.
On the first day of every school year, one student from each grade was selected to ring the bell. But now, a large piece of the school’s history is missing.
Three generations of Fehlings have attended Live Oak Elementary School, including Allen Fehling’s son, who is in the fourth grade. Fehling said that the bell represented the school and its families.
“That’s pretty much all you remember, is that bell out front,” Fehling said. “It sucks that someone would be low enough to steal it. You wouldn’t think a bell could mean so much, but the bell is the center of that school.”
Fehling said a group of parents are searching for the bell.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Officer at 209-468-4400.