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Drive afoot to honor longtime SCV veteran

Posted: July 28, 2014 2:44 p.m.
Updated: July 28, 2014 2:44 p.m.
Veteran and longtime Santa Clarita Valley community supporter Harry Bell  Veteran and longtime Santa Clarita Valley community supporter Harry Bell 
<p>Veteran and longtime Santa Clarita Valley community supporter Harry Bell</p><br /><br /><p> </p>

Over the years, longtime resident and volunteer Harry Bell built deep ties in the Santa Clarita Valley through his history of service.

Now, two years after his death, members of the Santa Clarita Valley Rotary Club and the Santa Clarita Elks Lodge are collaborating on the Harry Bell Memorial Fund — with a commitment to honor his memory in a veterans’ housing development being constructed near Bowman High School.

The two organizations have committed to raising $20,000 for the Habitat for Heroes project — an 87-home residential development off Centre Pointe Parkway that will offer housing and services to military veterans and their families — and have worked to place a monument honoring Bell in the development, according to Jim Lentini, chairman of the veteran committees for both the Elks Lodge and the Rotary Club.

“He’s very much been an icon of our valley and its growth, and he was always very supportive of charity,” Lentini said.

Lentini said the groups are also working to name a street in the project in Bell’s honor, an idea that has been embraced by Habitat for Humanity of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys, which is building the development.

“When we heard the story and knew of the man and his accomplishments, we felt that placing the street was an absolutely deserved honor, but more so he really needed to have a memorial in our park to represent what he did in the city of Santa Clarita and for the veterans there,” said Donna Deutchman, chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys.

Bell was a member of the Army Air Corps and flew missions in both World War II and the Korean War.

He carried that experience with him into civilian life — earning a civil engineering degree at Central Michigan College and working for 15 years as an engineer for the office of the Los Angeles County Engineer.
He was named Santa Clarita Valley Man of the Year for 2011.

Bell also was a volunteer pilot, flying burn victims and doctors to and from Mexico with Shriners Hospitals for Children.

“That’s the sort of man he was,” said Edward Bolden, Bell’s longtime friend and business partner.

Bell died at the age of 89 in a plane crash just off Highway 126 between Castaic Junction and Fillmore in July 2012.

“Harry Bell personified the mission of what Habitat is doing,” Deutchman said. “Whether during war time or at home, Harry Bell made it his cause to leave no veteran behind, and what that meant was when a veteran arrived home during any theater of war, he made it his mission to meet them, to see if they had the benefits they needed, to help them make themselves a new home back in the states, back in Santa Clarita.

“This is the story I’ve heard about him over and over again from those veterans living in Santa Clarita,” she said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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