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Reuben Call

Reuben Call's bell to be dedicated Sunday
by Michael Armstrong

Up on Diamond Ridge, Reuben Call has a cabin, a trail and a bench. This Sunday, Call gets a bell when the Homer United Methodist Church formally dedicates its bell in his memory at the 11 a.m. service. Friends and fellow church members will share memories and photos in celebration of his life. 

Call, who came to Homer in 1952, lived on a homestead on the south slope of Diamond Ridge near the old White Alice site. He died April 16, 1986 at age 78. Call was well known around Homer as "Walking Reuben," prominent in his khaki knapsack and orange cap as he strode around town. He refused to own a car, the Homer News wrote in the April 29, 1986, edition, although he would accept rides. His walking days ended when a car accident in August of 1984 left him paralyzed.

"He was a wonderful guy ‹ just a character," said Jim Hornaday

A friend and the church member behind the effort to get the bell dedicated for Call, Hornaday said, "There are a number of people in church who don't know Reuben."

Call was born Oct. 28, 1907, in Colrain, Mass. to Byron and Alice Mather Call. He graduated from the University of Amherst Massachusetts ‹ Hornaday said he was a loyal alumnus ‹ and served five years in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Call was a gunnery instructor at Lowry Field in Denver for the B-26 bomber, and served in the South Pacific and Brazil.

After the war, Call attended Illf School of Theology in the University of Colorado, Denver ‹ the same school where Pastor Dan Lush, the church's current minister went to school, Lush said. In the winter of 1950 and 1951, his nephew, Richard Purington, told Call he was going to Alaska to work with the Bureau of Public Roads, Purington wrote in a biography of Call. Call first came to Alaska in 1951, where he got work as a carpenter in Seward with the Alaska Railroad. Purington wrote that Call filed on his Diamond Ridge homestead in the summer of 1952. He lived between Seward and Homer, earning a living on the railroad and living at his cabin to prove up his homestead.

Call took courses at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, taught school at Eagle and Kenai, and worked with the American Friends Field Service in Beaver on the Yukon River, Purington wrote.

"Slow down. What's the hurry?" was Call's motto, Purington said. "He was always doing things for people and donating his time."

"Somehow we were lucky to get on his supper run," Hornaday said. "He'd tell you how to raise your kids and he'd criticize the Republicans, who could never do anything right."

Hornaday called him "kind of a New England style Brother Asaiah. You can just see him in the Robert Frost poems."

Hornaday said Call was known for his big church sledding parties up by his cabin. Below his cabin on a knoll with a panoramic view of Kachemak Bay, Kachemak Heritage Land Trust built a trail from the Diamond Ridge Homestead Trail parking lot to Reuben's Bench ‹ a thick slab of spruce high enough above the fireweed to admire the view.

Margaret Guldseth remembered Call from when he was in long-term care and recovering from his accident.

"He liked zipping around in his electric wheelchair running down the nurses," she said.

Hornaday couldn't remember Reuben's exact involvement in the church bell. Mike Cline, the Methodist church historian, said Call was "The chief motivating factor for getting a bell tower and the bell installed."

Rieta Walker, who came to Homer in 1963 and started going to the church in January 1964, remembered the bell was on a tripod by the church before an addition was built. She said it was Call's idea to build the tower on the addition.

"I always called it 'The Reuben Call Bell Tower,'" Walker said.

Pastor Lush said ringing the bell has been a tradition, the church's call to worship and to urge late-comers in the parking lot to hurry up and get inside. He said the ushers and greeters pick a kid to ring the bell.

"The kids like to do it," Lush said. "There's a bit of a competition."

Sunday at 11 a.m. some kid will ring the bell, Reuben Call's Bell, and call not just church goers to worship, but call forth memories of a longtime Homer resident and genuine Homer character.



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