NEW BUFFALO — The Annunciation & St. Paraskevi Greek Orthodox Church in New Buffalo again has a bell, located atop a tower finished earlier this year.
Mike and Louisa Kerhoulos were honored during a luncheon Sunday for donating the bell and tower in honor of their parents – Ted and Vasiliki Kerhoulas; Spiro and Marika Papaeliou. The bell tower, or kabanargio, was blessed as well.
Ted said his dad grew up in a Greek village called Arahova, and the bell tower in New Buffalo is a replica of the one there.
“It was something he had in mind for many years,” Ted added.
Mike said the original bell tower has been standing in Greece for more than 200 years.
“I took a picture, I gave it to the engineer, and he drafted one exactly like it,” he said.
Louisa noted her husband was very determined to get the new tower built.
“Every church in Greece has a bell, and the bell is very significant,” she said. “Now our church has a bell.”
For years, a large ceremonial bell was mounted near the entrance to the church, but it was stolen in November 2013 and never recovered. That bell originally rang every Sunday from the parish’s former home at 735 Broadway in Benton Harbor that was built in 1949.
After the congregation sold the Benton Harbor church in 1996, the bell, along with pews, icon screens and religious artifacts, were relocated to the 18000 Behner Road site in New Buffalo.
George Lepeniotis, a member of the church board, said the church has been a part of the Berrien County community for almost 100 years.
“Mike and Louisa have been a big part of everyone in this room’s life,” he said. “Mike has been a spiritual father to all of us. ... Theo Mike and Thea Louisa always made sure I had a safe way to get to church, and I was with family.”
He said a fundraiser was held after the original bell vanished, “but that wasn’t enough for Mike and Louisa.”
“The Orthodox Church is full of icons, and the reality is that, for us in the church, Mike and Louisa are those icons,” Lepeniotis said. “They are the personification of the Greek community as well as the Orthodox faith in that they believe in this church, they believe in God’s message and what they can do to make it truly a better and more loving place.”
Lepeniotis said he sees the bell tower as an outward expression of that lifelong commitment.