Westerville South High School will unveil and dedicate a Victory Bell Memorial to honor fallen Westerville Division of Police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in South's stadium, 303 S. Otterbein Ave.

The special ceremony will be held prior to Westerville Central-Westerville South football game.

Josh DeVoll, Westerville South's athletics director, said the idea for the bell came from conversations he had with parents about what to do as a school community to honor the lives of the officers who died Feb. 10 in the line of duty.

"At the same time, we were planning the construction of a victory bell," he said. "I thought what better way to pay tribute to them than to have a place where our students celebrate victory."

At the top of a plaque on the memorial are three words: Community. Sacrifice. Selflessness.

"Those are the qualities our coaches instill in our student athletes," DeVoll said. "It's a place to celebrate victory and honor the lives of Eric and Tony."

The plaque includes a tribute to the officers by Rick Bannister, a former Westerville City School District school board member and longtime resident.

"Because Officers Morelli and Joering were demonstrating for our community, and for the world, the amazing capacity for love and care for others that humans are able to achieve. They rushed in because they always put others first," he wrote. "This is the ultimate example of giving and selflessness."

Bannister said he was heartbroken by the events of Feb. 10 and couldn't sleep that evening. He got up in the middle of the night and decided to try and write down the feelings he was experiencing about the officers, he said.

"I posted my tribute on the morning of Feb. 11 and it was shared and viewed by more than 300,000 people," he said. "Just one example of so many to illustrate the love and gratitude the community of Westerville, and really folks everywhere, have for our fallen heroes and first responders in general."

Bannister said the memorial and victory bell are wonderful tributes and a great way to integrate gratitude with a lesson and example for Westerville South students for years to come.

DeVoll said the cast-iron victory bell is mounted in a brick structure, 7 feet wide by 8 feet tall.

He said the bell was donated by a family at Westerville South with the last name of Chrisman.

"The bell was purchased in the very early 1900s and used as a bell for emergencies in the community, such as a problem in the coal-mine shafts, a lost child or a fire," he said.

The family originally was from Virginia, then migrated to Sangap, Kentucky, before finally locating to central Ohio in the 1970s.

DeVoll said the athletics department is accepting donations to offset the cost of masonry work and creating the plaque.

The permanent structure will be located in the east end zone of the stadium beside the flag pole.

DeVoll said South's coaches discussed that whether the school teams win or lose, they just pack up and go home.

"There was no real way to celebrate victory," he said. "Kids don't have that experience to ring a bell. It stemmed from celebrating victory and successes after a win and provide them something in the stadium to go celebrate with."

He said the families of the fallen officers will unveil the bell and ring it for the first time at the game.

Joering was a 1997 Westerville South graduate.

"We wanted to make it a community event," DeVoll said.

"We thought what better way to unveil than with our sister school."

Those interested in donating toward the victory bell memorial can mail a check, made payable to Westerville South Athletic Boosters, to DeVoll's attention at 303 S. Otterbein Ave. Westerville, Ohio 43081. Cash or checks also can be dropped off to the athletics department between 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla