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Book honors Bethany backers
50th anniversary gala takes place Sept. 13
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It’s all about 50 Faces/50 stories in a four by nine inch, full-color hard bound edition commemorating the 50-year celebration of the Bethany Home Society that will celebrate its half century with a Grand Gala at the Ripon Community Center on Friday, Sept. 13.

It was on that same day in September 50 years ago in 1963 that Ida Schepel became the home’s first resident of the new facility in the 900 block of West Main Street that was on the western city limits of a community that was incorporated 18 years earlier.  It was a time when almond orchards encroached on the town and filled the acreage that is now a shopping center just to the west on Wilma Avenue.

The 50 Faces/50 Stories theme for the book was explained by its editor and Bethany’s Executive Director Andrew Lee:

“Instead of writing a methodical, historical listing of the events from our first 50 years, we thought it would be more interesting to hear from a broad range of the people whose lives have intersected with ours.  Thus, coinciding with the theme of fifty, we have chosen 50 people to share their personal life stories in ways that will provide the reader with a window into the heart and soul of Bethany Home,” Lee wrote.

The first of the 50 to grace the anniversary book’s pages is Joan Kamps who remembers her boyfriend at the time Bill Kamps saying, “We need a sign!”  Her quick response, “I can do that!

It was at the advent of the construction of Bethany in 1960 that Joan Eckhoff began dating Bill Kamps – both well-known members of the church and farming community.  At the time Bill’s dad Henry was part of the group working to build the new convalescent home in Ripon.  Joan remembered Bill mentioning to her that his dad wanted a large sign that they could put up on the property that had been purchased on the corner of Wilma Avenue and West Main Street.

“Of course, wanting to impress both Bill and his father, I boldly said I could do that….even though I had no experience in the field of sign making,” Joan quipped recently.  “The next thing I knew, Bill showed up with a large piece of plywood to paint the sign.  I put that big old board on the pool table in my family’s garage and proceeded to the local library to search for a book on sign lettering.  Somehow, I managed to paint a sign that was presentable and it was erected on the site that later became Bethany Home,” she recalled.

Bill later proposed and they were married in 1963, the same year Bethany Home opened its doors.  Over the years many signs have come and gone at the convalescent home but not were ever as special as Bill and Joan’s. 

The remaining pages of the book showcase the remaining 49 special “heart and soul” memories of how other members of the community expressed their love for the home and for its patients from medical director Dr. Daryl Dutter to Lisa Bauman who became part of the Bethany Buddies program through Ripon Christian Schools and is now charged with activities for the residents.

The “Numbers Lady” in the book is Jennie Holfman who moved to Ripon in 1919 and resided just two blocks from the future site of Bethany Home.  Main Street was just a dirt road back then.  She became Bethany’s volunteer bookkeeper for the first 17 years of its existence and also served on its board of directors.

Her humor and smile were ever present even after she moved into the home as a resident for the last seven years of her life.  She loved to recall watching John De Vries, the first administrator of Bethany, shock residents with his tongue and cheek references toward a beloved member of his family.

Lee has done his best to make sure those included in the hard cover volume have their own personal copy prior to the dinner where special guests will be former administrators.  Ken Hekman and Bruce Nikkel along with Gertrude Hekman – wife of the longtime administrator Martin Hekman – will be on hand to take part in the event and meet with old friends.

Entertainment for the evening is slated to be the University of the Pacific’s Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet.  Tickets are on sale at $35 and seating will be limited to advance tickets only.  Light appetizers are to be served at 6:30 p.m. with dinner following at 7.

For information or to purchase tickets, call or stop by Bethany’s corporate office at 999 W. Second St. or call (209) 599-4221, ext. 121.