On February 3, 2021, Alto Wallace Bell passed two days shy of this 98th birthday at his Greenbelt home. He was the youngest of three siblings, born in Enterprise, Alabama. His parents were early day entrepreneurs, Allie Bell ran a café decorated in car license plates and Josie Bell was a bonds bailsman, sand lot baseball team owner, and an employment manager all rolled into one.
Mr. Bell attended Coffee County Training Center. After graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943 as a medical technician stationed in Hawaii. Mr. Bell served in World War II, earning the World War II Victory medal, the Asian Philippines Theater of Operations medal, and the Good Conduct medal. After three years, he separated from service and enrolled in Tuskegee Institute (now University) where he became a bricklayer apprentice upon graduating in 1951. For more than 40 years, Mr. Bell worked as a skilled and accomplished brick mason. A life member of the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craft Workers of America, Mr. Bell constructed buildings, including homes, in Florida, and throughout the South, Midwest, and Northeast regions of the United States, including Maryland, Indiana, and Ohio.
Mr. Bell also set the cornerstone for Second Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., in 1979 where he joined in 1967. Six years later, he was ordained a deacon and faithfully served for more than 30 years. In the 1970s, Mr. Bell also co-chaired the church’s 123rd anniversary and was crowned Father of the Year. In addition to these activities, he sung in the James Carl Sams Men's Choir and was a member of the Brotherhood, Sunday School, and Training Union. Active in the community, Mr. Bell joined the Jacksonville Community Possee, a volunteer police force, and completed training in criminal justice at Florida Community College. Also, a 33° mason, Mr. Bell was a member of the Royal Arch and Blue Masonic Lodges. For the Tillman Valentine Consistory No. 2, he served as High Priest, Prince of the Year, Minister of State, and Commander in Chief.
In 2015, Mr. Bell moved to Greenbelt, Md., to live with his daughter, Altoria Bell Ross, where he rode a fire engine in the Labor Day parade, attended Greenbelt Community Church and participated in activities of the Golden Agers and the Senior Nutrition Program. In 2017, he became a member of Second Baptist Church of SW in District Heights, Md.
Helen Bell, his spouse of 34 years, preceded him in death in 1991. However, he is survived by his children: Gary Wallace Bell, Kathryn Mitchell (Joe), Bobby Bell (Alicia), Allie Marie Bell-Riddick (David), Altoria Bell Ross, and Debra Bell (Sam); Children of the heart: Theodore E. Ross, Jr. and Mary Jackson; grandchildren: Stephanie Davis (James), Joey Mitchell (T. Steele), Renee Wilson, Denise Bell (Johnny), Yvonne Barrios (Anibal), Angela Bell, Chasity Bell, and Joshua Ross; Grandchild of the heart: Tiffany Jackson; and many great grandchildren.
Friends may call at Gasch's Funeral Home, P.A., 4739 Baltimore Avenue, Hyattsville, Md., on Tuesday, March 2, 2021 from 12 to 4 p.m. A graveside service will follow at Cheltenham Veterans Cemetery on Wednesday, March 3.
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