History of Cerritos bells

Celia Lira

In a search of a victory bell for Cerritos College athletic team, the Pelias brass bell was given to the college by the U.S. Navy.

The bell was put on display at the administration quad to celebrate Cerritos Colleges’ 25th anniversary and to honored the USS Pelias crew and those fallen at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The USS Pelias surviving crew members purchased a victory bell for the students of Cerritos College. This bell came from John Waynes’ personal yacht.

Joe Hunt, Cerritos College gardener, said, “I found the victory bell in a storage room the third year I was here and I have been working here since 1989. The bell is taken out of storage every home game and ringed every time the football team scores.”

On Dec. 7, 1980, many crew members attended to the display of the bell.

Janice Cole, administrative secretary to executive director, said, “I have been working here 34 years and I attended the dedication of the bell, we had about 100 crew members here from different parts of the world.”

At its 10 years, Cerritos College wanted to find the victory bell, and contacted the Department of the Navy, it found a brass bell from the USS Pelias ship that saw action during WWII in the south pacific.

Mr. Donald W. Bongers, Pelias chief petty officer, found out that Cerritos College had the ship’s bell.

He wrote a letter to the college in April of 1980 asking to acquire the bell.

Mr. Bongers was concerned the Pelias bell only be used to toll for departed shipmates.

Cole said, “He didn’t want the bell to be used as a victory bell.”

Mr. Bongers and Nello Di Corpo, former dean of Community Services, agreed to put the bell on display as part of the college’s 25th celebration and to honor the crew members.

Steve Richardson, executive director of the Cerritos College Foundation, said, “The bell is a loan to Cerritos and since then a scholarship was established by the ship’s crew members called the Pelias Scholarship fund.”

There was one condition that the Department of the Navy established for College accepting the Bell: it was to report to it annually of the condition of the bell.

Richardson said, “We send an annual report of the bell’s condition along with pictures to assure them that well preserved.”