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Hamlin “Ham” Bell, 90, passed away peacefully at his home on Jan. 25. Born May 11, 1930, in New York, New York to the late Claire Smith Odell and William Henry “Harry” Bell, he moved at the age of seven to Clinton, where he remained a lifetime resident.
Ham attended Pierson School and The Morgan School. He enlisted in the Navy immediately following his graduation in 1948. A veteran of the Naval Air Force attached to the Seventh Fleet, he was particularly proud of serving in the military during the Korean War.
In 1951 his airplane was shot and crashed in the Sea of Japan. His crew struggled in the water for hours before being picked up by a British destroyer. In the engagement, both of his feet were frozen and his hearing in one ear was permanently impaired. He also served as an aerial gunner aboard a Navy PB4Y patrol bomber. In 1952, while still under heavy fire, he gave aid to several of his crew members who were wounded by an exploding enemy antiaircraft projectile. It was only after he organized a means of protection for the wounded that he stopped long enough for others to treat his wounds. For these actions, he was awarded a Gold Star and Letter of Commendation.
After his discharge, he married Jane York on June 6, 1953, daughter of the late Gertrude Hurd and Robert York, Sr. Together they raised four children.
He was employed as a carpenter and for Crowell Oil Company before joining the Clinton Police Department in 1954. Hamlin served as the fourth chief of police from 1967 to 1978 and has been credited with starting the first Marine Division for the force.
At heart, he was a shy and humble man with a fun sense of humor. A tough but fair attitude he, without a doubt, possessed. This held true to all he encountered. He was an avid reader and prolific letter writer. He had fond memories of summer camp in Kansas and Camp NaWaDaHa on Whaley Lake in New York, organizing the Clinton soap box derby races on Carter Hill Road, opening day of the Yankees, family vacations to Fire Island, and camping with family at the “woodlot,” to name a few. In retirement he enjoyed woodworking, watching the osprey and other wildlife along the Indian River, and taking long rides around town, reminiscing with family about the town history and its residents of which he was so proud.
Besides his parents, Ham was predeceased by his devoted and loving wife of 52 years, Jane York Bell, and brother Robert Bell of Niantic. He leaves behind daughter and steadfast caregiver Nancy Vincelette (William) of Clinton, David Bell and wife Lynda of Brattleboro, Vermont, daughter Karen Nevitt and husband Kin of Southport, North Carolina, and son Thomas Bell (Kristine) of Stonington, as well as nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, including Shane Vincelette (Kimberly), Erik Vincelette (Jennifer), and Troy Vincelette (Elisabeth) all of Clinton; Christopher Bell (Lauren) of Brattleboro, Vermont; Matthew Bell (Elizabeth) of Olympia, Washington; Wade Nevitt (Natalie) of Los Angeles, California; Griffin Nevitt (Hannah) of Cary, North Carolina; and Evan and Olivia Bell of Stonington. He is also survived by numerous nieces and nephews, including Marla York Ingalls (Paul) of Westbrook, Curtis P. York, Jr. (Kathy) of Maryland, and Norman Bell (Sara) of Virginia.
For his online guestbook and condolences, please visit www.swanfh.com.