LONE ROCK, Mont. — Iris Woolsey Holland had a mission 40 years in the making when she came to the Lone Rock Community Barbecue in mid-July.
It was just after 1 p.m. on July 14 when the Stevensville woman marched up to barbecue organizer, Dan Metully, with a message.
"She told me she wanted to make a statement," Metully said. "She told me she wanted to return something that belonged to the school."
And then she looked Metully in his eyes and said: "I want you to be there."
The Lone Rock man remembers being a little nervous at the time.
"I wasn't quite sure what she wanted," he said. "We had just passed a bond and, well, you never know."
But Iris Woolsey Holland had something totally different in mind.
In longhand, she had carefully written out "The Story of the Bell" that she planned to give back to the historic school that day.
It seems that back in the early 1940s, there was a family named Southwick that lived right across the street from the Lone Rock School.
One of their boys — in what may have been just a schoolyard prank — broke into the school one night and stole the bell that teachers probably used way back then to call in their charges from recess, said Holland, in her handwritten story. That family moved away shortly after that and the bell went with them.
Sometime in the late 1950s, one of the younger boys brought the bell in to Holland's brother, Herb Woolsey, who was a detective captain with the Missoula police at the time, with the request the detective make sure the bell found its way back to Lone Rock.
Woolsey never did get around to getting the bell back to its rightful home. Just before he passed away, he gave it to his sister with the promise that she'd make sure it was finally returned.
That wasn't the only piece of history that Holland offered the school that day.
Several years ago, Jim and Glenda Anderson had presented her with a historic hand-tinted photograph taken by Fred Williams of the Lone Rock School around 1915. She said the photo was taken before a class was ever held there.
"Now it's time for it too to be kept at Lone Rock School for everyone to enjoy as much as I have enjoyed it," Holland wrote.
Metully said it was a nice surprise at the free barbecue that invites Lone Rock residents to spend an afternoon enjoying each other's company.
"It was very cool," Metully said. "She felt that returning it during the community barbecue was the most appropriate thing to do."
The bell and photograph will probably find a new home in the showcase in the school's lobby.
"I think people are going to enjoy seeing it there," he said.
Information from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com