William J. Bell and his wife, Katherine Skead, were early believers in the community and contributed to its growth with their vision, their time and generous gifts.
The Bells are best remembered for their donation of 110 acres of property to the City of Sudbury for the formation of Bell Park. They purchased the tract of land around Lake Ramsey in 1908 at a cost of $301.
The Bells moved to Sudbury in 1896 when William was employed by the Hale and Booth Lumber Company. In 1901 he became vice-president and general manager of the Spanish River Lumber Co.
By 1924 William had controlling interests of the company and remained president until 1932 when the company was sold.
His business interests were not limited to the lumber industry. He became president of the Cochrane-Dunlop Hardware Co., as well as director and president of of National Grocers Ltd.
William was instrumental in bringing a chapter of the Rotary Club to Sudbury in 1923. As a member of Sudbury’s parks department, he arranged for the construction of Memorial Park. He was one of 14 men who financed Sudbury’s first theatre, The Grand Theatre.
He also served as secretary/treasurer for St. Andrew’s United Church, and was a member of the Masonic Order. He was affiliated with the Sudbury Hockey Club and active in the formation of the Idylwylde Golf Club.
When he died in January 1945 at the age of 87, he left $125,000 to the Salvation Army so that the men’s centre on Larch St. could be built.
Katherine was the daughter of Senator James Skead, and the town of Skead was named by her husband in honour of her family.
She died in 1954 at the of 90. In her obituary, it was noted: “Mrs. Bell will be long remembered…for her generous nature and philanthropic works, her activities with St. Andrew’s United Church, her efforts and success in bringing the VON to Sudbury, her organization of the Sudbury Horticultural Society, and her love of people and animals.”
She also volunteered her time to the Children’s Aid Society, the Canadian Red Cross, and Sudbury Public Library.
The Bell Mansion on John St., the property, and most of the contents were willed to Memorial Hospital.