Nightly News   |  December 28, 2013

More cowbell! 85-year-old rings in holidays year after year

With his grandfather’s Swiss cowbell from 1896 and his family by his side, 85-year-old Denver resident Merrill Fie continues his legacy as the Mile High City’s longest serving Salvation Army bell ringer. NBC’s Leanne Gregg reports

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> they're hard to miss during the holidays. thousands of salvation army volunteers next to their red kettles, collecting donations for the needy. tonight, we meet a small but mighty part of that army. a family of three generations, led by a man who's been ringing a bell for almost 60 years. from denver , here's nbc's leanne gregg.

>> help the salvation army !

>> reporter: on this 25- degree day denver with a request he's made countless times.

>> help salvation army right here!

>> reporter: now 85, he owned one of colorado's oldest businesses and began bell-ringing with fellow ceos in 1956 .

>> it grows on you. i get my heart warmed when people bring up their children.

>> merry christmas !

>> reporter: for close to 60 years, merrill has never missed a bell-ringing shift because it makes him happy.

>> it's just part of me, part of the season. and, you know, people like to see someone that smiles.

>> reporter: to attract donors he uses a swiss cow bell . it was his grandfather's from 1896 . it was more than the bell that was passed on.

>> his grandfather would give bags of groceries anonymously to those in his community that were less fortunate.

>> reporter: generations later, in that same spirit of giving, merrill is joined most years by his two daughters and six grandchildren.

>> how we doing, brady?

>> good.

>> reporter: his wife dory, 87, and visually impaired, also comes out. the family raises $15,000 to $20,000 each christmas for the salvation army to help the needy .

>> first memory, just being really cold.

>> it's a tradition. more than the family, more than anything, to keep what my grandpa does going.

>> grandpa's taught us the right way.

>> reporter: the legacy in denver 's longest-serving bell-ringer, still taking to the streets for a good cause. leann gregg, nbc news, denver .

>> hey, hey, that's a good one!