The Oishei Bell
Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY

By Fred Remington Whaley, Jr.
Reprinted from "The Gate," Winter 2004
TEXT Beneath Illustrations

Click on illustrations to enlarge

The bell rests on a marble base that came from the demolished New Cathedral at Delaware and Utica


The New Cathedral, Delaware at Utica. Demolished
Postcard courtesy of Patrick Mahoney

[As President of the Forest Lawn Group] I played a significant role in capturing a unique and useful trophy for Forest Lawn.

In 1866, a 43-bell carillon was cast by Bollée et Fils in Mans, France. The bells won the gold medal at the Paris Expositionin 1867 and were hung in St. Joseph's Cathedral in Buffalo. The enormous weight of the bells, however, was too much for the single belltower, and the bells were put in storage until the new cathedral's twin towers at Delaware Avenue and Utica Street housed them from 1912 to 1922.

They were again stored for 50 years until the "new" cathedral was demolished in 1973. The church was willing to sell the second-largest bell, and Patricia Colby of the Oishei family (her father invented the windshield wiper and founded Trico Company) was willing to purchase it for the cemetery.

So, Forest Lawn acquired a 3,000-pound, copper-and-tin bell that is now electronically rung for funeral processions entering the cemetery The tolling of this historic bell is, to me, one of the arresting moments to those entering Forest Lawn in a funeral cortege.

The bell rests on a marble base that came from the demolished cathedral at Delaware and Utica.

Many of the other carillon bells have disappeared, but seven remaining bells, originally commissioned by a Catholic bishop, were purchased by a person of Jewish faith, who graciously donated them to Forest Lawn Cemetery where they await a useful life in the future.

Photos and their arrangement © 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
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