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It was more than just Bethany Homes first sign
The original Bethany Home sign. - photo by Photo Contributed

It was back in the early 1960s that a young Joan Eckhoff began dating the handsome Bill Kamps.

At the time, Bill’s father Henry Kamps, Sr. was part of the group that was working toward building a convalescent hospital in Ripon. 

“Bill mentioned to me that his dad wanted a large sign they could put up on the property that had been purchased on the corner of Wilma and Main,” according to Joan. “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!”

“Next thing I knew, Bill showed up with a large piece of plywood for which to paint the sign,” added Joan.  “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.  I decided the ‘Bethany Home’ name should be done in a more elaborate text, so I chose an ‘Old English’ style, but then used standard block lettering for the rest of the sign.  Somehow, I managed to paint a sign that was presentable and it was erected on the site that eventually became Bethany Home.”

Joan’s talents definitely impressed Bill, who soon thereafter asked for her hand in marriage.  In 1963 (the same year Bethany Home opened its doors) Bill and Joan were married.  Joan remembers her Father-in-law being very proud of the accomplishments made by that original group of planners, but when the time came for him to need experienced caregiving, there was great resistance.  “Even though Dad was behind the development of a place that would house people in their senior years, it was not for him,” quipped Joan.  “My Mother on the other hand, was a resident in both the Assisted Living and the Skilled Nursing.  Thankfully there was a beautiful facility for her care.”

Over the years, signs have come and signs have gone at Bethany Home, but none have been so lovingly made as that very first sign that was hand-painted by Joan.