Bell tower’s 50th anniversary celebration starts

MahanaysFloyd and Dora Mahanay, a couple who some have described as “a study in contrasts,” were portrayed by Don and Bonnie Orris last Sunday when the Greene County Historical Society kicked off the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower.

Floyd Mahanay, portrayed by Don Orris
Floyd Mahanay, portrayed by Don Orris

After an introduction by emcee Chuck Offenburger, Floyd Mahanay wasted no time in showing the salesmanship that was a key to building the fortune that allowed him to fund most of the construction of the bell tower that carries his name.

Mahanay managed to “sell” Rolfe Blaess “the world’s greatest memory reproducer,” a notepad and pencil.

Floyd Mahanay was born in Jefferson. He met Dora Lorenzen, a farm girl from Cedar Bluffs, NE, while he was a partner in a mercantile in Cedar Bluffs. They were married at the Presbyterian Church in Jefferson on Sept. 8, 1925.

Dora Mahanay, portrayed by Bonnie Orris
Dora Mahanay, portrayed by Bonnie Orris

The Lorenzen family owned farm land and Dora inherited money of her own. She grew her inheritance by providing down payment assistance at 5 percent interest to hard working families. She had enough to finish the funding for the bell tower when Floyd’s money ran short.

Floyd’s tight-fisted hold on money is the subject of many local stories. He used his earnings very wisely, purchasing farm ground during the Depression. He purchased a life insurance policy every year on his birthday, paying the premiums in full. He was then able to use the paid up policies as collateral for bank loans to purchase more farmland.

Among the stories Floyd told was of a trip he and Dora took to Japan in 1934. There, he saw cattle eating soybeans. Floyd was the first person to grow soybeans in Greene County. He had no way to separate the beans from the plants so he fed the entire plants to his cattle. The rich diet made the cattle ill and Mahanay ended his soybean trial.

After the Mahanays spoke, Pat Richards, who coordinates the seasonal staff at the bell tower, told of current operations there. She reported that between 2013 and 2016, people from six different continents visited the tower. Visitors came from all 50 states, Canada, Guam, six South and Central American countries, 12 European countries, 10 Asian countries, and six African countries.

Carole Custer, president of the Bell Tower Community Foundation, updated the audience on the effort to complete the four-octave carillon. The foundation learned since last Sunday that its application for an $88,000 Vision Iowa community attraction and tourism (CAT) grant has been approved. The project, with a total cost of $440,000, will move forward and be completed within a year.

The gala celebration of the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower is slated for Oct. 16, 2016.

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