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Continued: Minnesota couple, 90 and 91, ring bells for Salvation Army

  • Article by: ANNA PRATT , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 17, 2013 - 3:35 PM

The McDougalls met at a dance that the Iowa National Guard hosted at Camp Dodge. They have been married for 67 years and have six children, 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

The secret to their long, full lives?

Jim advises people to “quit smoking, eat right and get exercise.”

And it helps to have “good genes,” he said.

The story of Edith’s bell

When the McDougalls volunteer with the Salvation Army, they bring their own bell. The little brass bell, which once belonged to Jim’s mother, Edith, makes a big sound.

It has a story: In her later years, Edith had a hard time walking. She rang a bell whenever she needed a hand. Jim and his nine siblings took turns staying at her home in LeMars, Iowa.

But it took a couple of bells to get the right system in place. The first one wasn’t loud enough. So a family member remedied the situation with a bell that gets everyone’s attention.

When Edith died in 1999, Jim inherited the resounding bell. He brings it to family functions, where it comes in handy to “maintain order,” he said.

In a way, it says, “Mom’s still out there,” he said.

A language of its own

The bell carries extra weight for the McDougalls when they volunteer for the Salvation Army.

“I think the bell has a language of its own. Its ringing means something to people,” Jim said. “The bell tells a story. … it’s time to start thinking about other people.”


Freelance writer Anna Pratt can be reached at


  • related content

  • Jim and Yvonne McDougall, 90 and 91, respectively, at their home in Minnetonka. They have a decadeslong tradition of ringing the Salvation Army bell at Christmas. This year, they greeted shoppers at Edina’s Southdale Mall with their bell, a family heirloom.

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