Here are your Heritage Ringers for the Fall 2023 Season:
Julie Anderson joined Heritage Ringers in 2012 upon moving to Madison from Greenville, Ohio. She grew up in Arlington, Virginia, and began ringing bells at the age of 10 when her church bought 3 octaves with S&H greenstamps! She rang in various groups for over 25 years until moving to the Midwest. Due to location and scheduling while raising three children, she was unable to ring for the next 20 years and is thrilled to be ringing again. After 7 moves in 30 years, Julie hopes Madison is “it”!
Julie and Biff, her husband of 36 years, are members of Mt. Zion Baptist Church, where she sings in the choir and rings bells. She works full time as a physical therapist, and enjoys traveling, reading and spending time with her children and two grandsons.
Fred Baier was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M University, he accepted a position in the US Army intern program and he and his wife, Cindy, moved to Huntsville to begin his initial two year training assignment at the Missile Command on Redstone Arsenal. Thirty-six years later he retired from his position as the Financial Management Division Chief for the Cruise Missile Defense Systems Project Office. He enjoys playing tennis, bowling, reading, attending yoga classes and spending time with his family. He is particularly blessed in his retirement to be able to spend significant time with his grandchildren. His musical background includes studying the piano for 10 years beginning at the age of six and playing in his high school marching band. He began playing hand bells late in life when Director, and former Heritage Ringer, Deanna Guerkink found a position for him in the hand bell choir at Faith Presbyterian Church. He is very grateful to be able to play along with the other musicians of the Heritage Ringers.
Fred serves as the Treasurer of Heritage Ringers.
Heather Batchelor has rung with the Heritage Ringers since 2006, and has been ringing handbells for more than 20 years with choirs in Tennessee and Alabama. Heather currently attends Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison, where she directs the Asbury Ringers handbell choir and has served as children’s choir director. Heather is also involved in musical theater as a performer and choreographer. She has trained in numerous dance disciplines in both the U.S. and in France and was on the dance faculties of the Dance Arts Center in Cookeville, TN and the Dance Company in Madison. She is also a trained vocalist and honed her early skills by traveling around the Southeastern U.S. with her folk-singing parents and sister. Professionally, Heather is on staff at Asbury Church and is also a licensed Realtor. She holds a degree in Marketing from Tennessee Technological University. In her “spare” time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, photography, reading, participating in 5Ks and spending time with her husband, Mike, and sons, Brett and Blake.
Sara Beth Dortch began ringing with Heritage Ringers in January of 1995. After a brief sabbatical, from 2012-2015 to finish her bachelor’s degree in music education, she is excited to be ringing again. She privately teaches flute, violin, piano and guitar, as well as being certified to teach Pre-K – 12th Grade music in the classroom. She plays flute and violin in the dance band, Tzignal Orkestar, and plays flute with the Twickenham Winds.
Sara Beth is married with four children and two grandchildren. When she isn’t playing music, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and canoeing.
Rhonda Gaede began ringing handbells in 1981 at Bethany Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas where she worked for Motorola after graduating from Southern Methodist University with an Electrical Engineering degree. She also sang in the choir at Bethany and played clarinet in the instrumental ensemble. Knowing that she wanted to be an educator, Rhonda went to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, receiving her Master’s Degree and then her Ph.D.
While in graduate school, she met and married Glen Long. His Army career took them to West Point where Rhonda worked for IBM and rang in a handbell choir. After leaving West Point, she moved to Kansas, to Virginia, and then to Huntsville. During this period, Rhonda was in handbell “withdrawal”!
Upon moving to Madison, she was ecstatic to hear that Messiah Lutheran Church was buying handbells and starting a handbell choir in 1998. After a short period, the music director decided that he was needed elsewhere and put Rhonda in charge of directing the handbell choir and she’s been at it ever since. Missing ringing, Rhonda formed a quartet and has done some solo ringing. Sadly, the quartet members don’t ring regularly any more but do get together to ring for special occasions. The desire to ring has been filled by the Heritage Ringers since 2006.
Ron Jones had been ringing bells since 1981 at St. James Presbyterian Church. Near his hometown of Deer Park, Texas, the small church found its first 2-octave set of handbells in a trash dumpster! Since then, he continued ringing through to present day.
After graduating from Texas A&M University with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Ron moved to the Washington, DC area to begin his career in computer and network security. While there, he found his lovely wife in 1996, Michelle. As the children started growing up, he and Michelle moved down to Huntsville in 2003 to be closer to family, and to provide a family-friendly neighborhood for their kids, Collin and Rachel, to grow up in. At one time or another, each family member had joined in the fun in ringing in their church’s bell choir.
Over the years, Ron has rung many church choirs in Texas, Maryland, and Virginia prior to settling in Alabama. Along the way, he had the opportunity to ring in multiple solos, ensembles, clinics, and festivals. In 2000, Ron also directed a junior bell choir for middle-school and high-school students. While he enjoyed helping younger ringers with the art, Ron simply loves to ring. In 2014, he was given the opportunity to join Heritage, which gave him the chance—even after more than 40 years of ringing—to learn new things from a group of highly-skilled and expert ringers.
Ron is also the manager of Heritage Ringer’s website.
Lori Kegley has been playing bells since high school in various church choirs throughout the years. She joined the Heritage Ringers in August, 1999. After a brief sabbatical from 2014-2017 to be more involved in her son’s High School Band years, she is thrilled to be back with the group. She is currently employed as a Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser for Griffin Appraisals and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Tennessee. Lori is married to her husband Jeff, and they have one son, Christopher, who is attending Auburn University. In her spare time, her favorite place to be is by the sea. The entire family enjoys scuba diving every chance they get!
Jessica Meadows began ringing handbells in middle school with Trinity United Methodist Church’s youth handbell ensemble. She has been a member of Heritage Ringers in the past but had to take a break due to moving to Mobile, Alabama. Missing making music, she is happy to be back doing what she enjoys. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, dancing, going to concerts, playing board games, rock climbing, and exploring Huntsville.
Julee Martin began ringing with the Heritage Ringers in 2009. She started ringing in 1989 at the Glorieta, New Mexico Baptist Music Camp. She has continued ringing in various handbell choirs for more than 27 years, having participated in a variety of church handbell choirs and other handbell ensembles in both California and Alabama. Julee has a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Education with a Minor in Music from Baylor University. Julee has directed a variety of children’s musical groups including vocal choirs, instrumental ensembles as well as handbell and handchime choirs. She also delights in playing flute and has performed with several orchestras and small groups.
Born and raised in Livermore, California, Julee moved with her husband and two boys to Madison, Alabama in 1997. In her spare time Julee enjoys traveling, sewing, reading, sports, jigsaw puzzles and spending time with her family.
Anna Pruitt began ringing in the Heritage Ringers full time in 2019. She has been playing handbells at Trinity United Methodist Church since being in the youth handbell ensemble, and has substituted in various groups including the Heritage Ringers over the years. Since graduating from Auburn University in 2017, she works in Huntsville as a Software Engineer, and in addition to ringing she plays with the UAH Community Orchestra and the Trinity Woodwind Quintet.
Lucas Pruitt has been ringing handbells at Trinity United Methodist Church for many years where he performed in the youth handbell group in the past and substitutes regularly in several other groups currently. In addition, he has performed as a member of the Trinity Handbell Quartet and has joined his church in attending several local handbell events, such as the Tennesee Valley Handbell Association Festival, and regional handbell events, such as the Area 6 Handbell Festival.
Chad Rutherford has been a member of the Heritage Ringers since 2008, and has enjoyed every minute of it. He has rung handbells for a “good long time” in various church choirs, beginning with the First United Methodist Church in Paragould, Arkansas as a high schooler and extending to his present church, Latham United Methodist Church in Huntsville. Chad has a B.S. (Alabama) and M.S (Georgia Tech) in Mechanical Engineering and has worked as an engineer since he came to Huntsville in 1998. Chad’s hobbies include reading, art, cooking, sports, and teaching Sunday School, and spending time with his wife, Michelle, and his three children (Brandon, Jenna, and Jason).
Claire Strand is from South Alabama having been born and raised on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. She and husband Stephen moved to North Alabama for Stephen’s job on the arsenal in 1992. Claire was introduced to handbells at Messiah Lutheran Church where she works as the Director of Missions and volunteer directs the children’s handbell choir. She enjoys kayaking, swimming, playing with her granddaughter, and serving veterans.
Barbara Wood has been playing handbells since 1972 when her church, First Baptist in Athens, started a handbell choir. She has been a member of Heritage Ringers since 1989. She also likes to solo ring and has rung for many events in the Athens area and at church.
Her musical background began with piano lessons at an early age up through high school. She played flute and was majorette in the high school band. She got a Bachelor’s Degree in Home Economics (textiles and clothing) from Mississippi State University. Barbara and her husband have four children and six grandchildren. She was a stay-at-home mom until about 14 years ago when she started working as Music Secretary at First Baptist Church in Athens, where she and her family attend. She is Children’s Choir Coordinator and Director of 4 & 5 year old children’s choir. She loves teaching preschoolers about Jesus through music.
In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family, sewing, cooking, decorating and attending children’s choir and handbell conferences.
Barbara serves as Vice President of Heritage Ringers.