Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Michael Winterringer rings bells

Saying goodbye to Michael Winterringer

Added on Friday, December 7, 2018

The Salvation Army is grieved to learn that one of Minnesota’s most incredible and aptly named bell ringers, Michael Winterringer, passed away last weekend. He was 47.

During the past five Christmas seasons, Winterringer rang for hundreds of hours outside of Walmart in Grand Rapids, Minn.

He cherished every second of his time at the kettle.

Michael Winterringer rings bells“You know that feeling you get when you fall in love with Jesus? That’s the way I feel when I ring bells,” Winterringer said in a 2016 story we wrote about him. To honor Winterringer, the Grand Forks Herald Review published the same story on the front page of its Dec. 5, 2018 edition.

Kathleen Saelens, a Salvation Army social worker in Grand Rapids, worked closely with Winterringer over the years. She had never met anyone like him.

“Michael was a force,” Saelens said. “He was totally unabashed about his love of God and Jesus, and how it affected his life. He shared that with everybody he encountered.”

Winterringer lived with several mental disabilities. He spent years struggling with addiction and homelessness, but he overcame those obstacles soon after moving to Grand Rapids six years ago, when he got involved with a local church.

“There are no words to explain the depths of God’s love,” Winterringer said in 2016, fighting back tears. “It’s better than any drug. It’s better than any drink.”

Winterringer was scheduled to bell ring at Walmart for 24 more two-hour shifts this Christmas season. Incredibly, his friends from Kiesler Wellness Center and Northland Counseling Center have stepped in to cover all 24 shifts – plus another 10 shifts to boot.

Michael Winterringer rings bellsEarlier this week, Saelens stopped by the red kettle at Walmart to display a sign that reads, “Ringing in memory of Michael Winterringer.” As she was propping up the sign, a public transportation bus was driving by. The driver stopped the vehicle, got out, and told Saelens that Winterringer used to ride his bus all the time.

The driver “got so choked up,” Saelens said. “That was Michael’s effect. He touched so many hearts. In the short time we had Michael, we were blessed.”

A memorial service for Michael Winterringer will be held at Kiesler House in Grand Rapids, 3130 SE 2nd Ave., on Friday, Dec. 14 at 3 p.m.

Poverty is an everyday battle that families don’t always win. Thankfully, there is an army of loving people like you who fight on their behalf. Your generosity puts food on their table, presents under their tree, and joy in their hearts. Join the fight for good by donating online or at a red kettle, becoming a volunteer bell ringer, or recruiting your own army of fundraisers at FundraiseForGood.org. Learn more about how The Salvation Army fights poverty in your community.