It all started with a little brass bell. St. John’s Meadows resident Jane Connor has been collecting bells since her mid-twenties. Throughout the years, Jane has traveled to numerous antique shops and bell conventions, both in the United States and abroad. “It all started when my sister Miriam asked if I wanted to go to an antique show,” says Jane. “Of course me being me, I had to buy something. I looked around and saw this little brass bell. That was my first bell.”
Fast forward to today and Jane’s collection of bells is upwards of 1,000. Throughout her apartment, various collections of bells are numbered and categorized, helping her remember when and where each was collected. “I just love history and there is a lot of history in my bells,” explains Jane.
Born and raised in Batavia, New York, Jane married her husband Maurice in 1944. A few years later, Maurice passed away. “My husband was an Iwo Jima casualty and was a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps. I was expecting a baby at the time,” Jane continues. “Collecting bells was something that gave me something to do and think about.” In 1952, Jane began subscribing to the American Bell Association International magazine. “In the last issue, there was an article about two people in the bell association who have been subscribing to this magazine since 1952,” smiles Jane. “One of the two people is me.”
Jane is not the only one in her family who enjoys collecting bells; in fact a friendly competition arose when her sister also began collecting bells. There came a point in time when Jane was excluded from some of the trips because she “always found the best bells,” according to her sister. A compromise was made after Jane explained that she would offer her sister first choice of any bell they found. “I told her I would find something for my other collections, so they allowed me to go,” Jane recalls.
With nearly 1,000 total bells, it is not surprising that Jane’s collection was featured on almost every page in the book More Collectible Bells: Classic to Contemporary. From nineteenth century sleigh bells to religious alter bells, Jane’s collection is far from ordinary. “Before I moved here, I had 1,000 bells, but some of them were too large to bring,” laughs Jane. After downsizing, Jane believes she has around 800 bells and hopes that someday another bell collector will be interested in her array of bells. “I’ve got all kinds of interesting things around here,” smiles Jane. “Maybe I should start charging.”