by Doug McClure
GREENSBORO/HARDWICK – In a soggy Sunday ceremony, the former Greensboro High School bell was moved from its spot near the Greensboro town hall to Hazen Union.
The event was a celebration of both the school and Hazen Union student Finn Rooney, who passed in January 2020. Finn was the driving force behind Hazen Union getting its own bell.
The Bread and Puppet band provided music at both the start of the procession in Greensboro and at Hazen Union. Rooney had been a member of that troupe for a brief period. Alex Anair’s bright red pickup was designated to transport the bell from Greensboro to Hazen Union. Rooney’s mother, Tara Reese, said Anair was his first friend back when the family returned to Walden in 2015. Anair had just gotten the truck working last week and there was a backup if its transmission failed.
The Bread and Puppet band played a New Orleans dirge. It carried extra meaning: Rooney had big plans in New Orleans once he graduated, starting with college. On the anniversary of his passing, Reese, Finn’s brother Lyle, along with his girlfriend, packed up in Reese’s blue Subaru and drove to that city. They skipped the tourist route and stayed in the Treme neighborhood. The family spent time in the Lower 9th Ward and scattered some of Rooney’s ashes in an abandoned Navy yard there. It’s a tradition Reese said might continue. Reese likes the traditions of New Orleans and wanted to include elements of a jazz funeral with this event. Bread and Puppet delivered with a New Orleans-infused “Down by the Riverside.”
In Greensboro, Hazen Union Principal David Perrigo started with a few words and said of Greensboro’s select board unanimously approving giving the bell to Hardwick, “What a gift. To have a bell, and not a new bell, a young, inexperienced bell, but a bell with maturity and spirit. A bell that has rung out to the community of Greensboro throughout its history.” He said, “the gift has allowed us to advance a dream first articulated by our former student body president [Finn Rooney]. To bring a working bell back to Hazen, to once again ring out over the hills, in the valleys of our community, to inform, to celebrate, to unify and to heal, as it once did many years ago. This bell will serve as a symbol and a messenger of our coming together as a community, a theme that is a tremendous part of our legacy.” Perrigo said that “as we come out the isolation of this long, dark night of pandemic, as we seek a more civil political discourse in our land, and as we struggle to fulfill the promise of our nation for equity and racial justice for all, we will be reminded and inspired by this bell and the dream that represents the solidarity and support of our friends and neighbors in Greensboro [who] have shown us through their unanimous support for realizing this dream. [This] is a great testament to the strength and soul of our union.”
Greensboro Town Clerk Kim Greaves was one person instrumental in making the project happen and she had her own words to say, but at a certain point, the emotions were so strong she choked up. Others had the same reaction. Finn’s brother, Lyle, said he would rather leave the talking to others.
The process to get to this point has been long and at times fraught with controversy and divisiveness, but in the end what Finn Rooney hoped could happen finally has. He discovered the story behind the Hardwick Academy bell through a class assignment and set out to create a legacy for Hazen Union. Along the path, Finn Rooney found many allies. Fellow students have described this impulse was part of his goodwill, a commitment that inspired many to be better and work on the project after his passing. Hazen Union student Bailey Shepard, who was a friend of Finn’s, said that “to see this really happen, what he wanted for the school, made me happy and didn’t make me want to cry.”
Finn Rooney served with the Walden Fire Department, which led the caravan of cars following Anair’s pickup ferrying the bell to Hazen Union.
At Hazen, Finn’s favorite sandwiches and root beer were on offer, donated by Village Restaurant owner Lynn DeLaricheliere. Perrigo further detailed the plans for the bell. The current plan is that the first official ringing of the bell will be at the Hazen graduation ceremony. But the baseball team is heading into playdowns and Lyle’s pitching has been a big part of that journey. If Hazen Union takes the championship, the bell might ring out earlier.