Claude Anderson Bell, retired Department of Technology professor, passed away on January 18, 2017.
As a member of the “Greatest Generation,” Bell enlisted in the U.S. Army in July 1942. He was a gun crewman in the Light Artillery Canon Company, 311th Infantry, 78th Lightning Division. Bell was engaged in ground combat in Germany and was discharged in March 1946. Bell married Emma Jean Bell; they were married for almost 66 years.
In 1947, he earned his undergraduate degree from Western Kentucky at Bowling Green. He earned his master’s degree in education in 1948 and his Ed.D. in 1964 from University of Missouri.
Bell taught at Central High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. In August 1956, the family moved to Normal where he taught at University High School and Illinois State Normal University. Jean and Claude joined “Newcomers,” a group of faculty and wives who met monthly for a meal. The group remained close, with almost family ties, ending their regular monthly meeting schedule 58 years later.
“Julie (Stier) came into Turner Hall one day after I was done teaching to pick me up and Claude was working on a wood project. He showed us how he was taking out every little dent in the wood by using a hot iron and a wet cloth. It turned out to be a beautiful clock.” —Ken Stier
When Old Main, the original building and the center of ISNU campus life, was demolished in 1958, Bell used some of its huge pine timbers to craft a bedroom suite and other pieces of furniture for his son’s home. He refinished an oak table found at auction with enough leaves to host children and grandchildren. He then re-caned enough matching chairs to provide the seating for all. Wood was his medium.
He used his love of woodworking and furniture making to teach wood shop for many years and later taught mechanical drawing and drafting classes. His ongoing commitment was to developing young people into functioning ethical adults.
Bell retired from Illinois State University in December 1986 and was “roasted” as the “Conscience of the Industrial Arts Department.” He continued teaching throughout his life, leading people of all ages to learn life lessons and supporting past students in their careers.
After Claude and Jean moved to Westminster Village, he enjoyed Wednesday Coffee with the “ISU guys,” Golden K activities, gardening by the barn, and hours on the stationary bike. When the foundation garden walk was built he planted a red bud tree in his wife’s memory and later an Eastern Pine to honor Old Main, the faculty and staff at ISNU and ISU.
Our condolences go to his two children, six grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. Memorial contributions may be made to a Department of Technology scholarship established in his name. Checks should be made to the ISU Foundation with a memo line “Dr. Claude Bell Endowed Scholarship in Technology.” Please mail to: ISU Foundation, 1101 N. Main St., Campus Box 8000, Normal, IL 61761. Gifts can also be made online.