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Bethesda Lutheran Home

Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Founded 1903


[Editor’s Note.  The chapter contains references to Bethesda residents

at the time.  They are neither appropriate nor acceptable.]

[e.g., Home for Feeble Minded and Epileptic Children]



Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. has always taken pride in being a leader and pioneer in the services and supports offered to individuals with developmental disabilities throughout the country and throughout the world.





The Bethesda Lutheran Home was an outgrowth of the charitable works of the Lutheran-related Children's Friend of Kindefreund Societies.  The group chose Watertown for the site of the home because of a promise of 20 acres of free land at the southwestern edge of town.  However, the first home for Bethesda was at rented quarters at 222-226 Margaret St. [Faith House].  The home was located here between 1903 and 1906.


The establishment of the Bethesda Lutheran Home at Watertown was a significant event for the community.  While the 20 acres of free land probably helped sway the decision to locate the home at Watertown, the fact that there was a considerable German settlement there and a significant group of Lutherans was probably also a factor in the decision.  The Bethesda Home represents the efforts of the private sector to provide facilities for the poor and disadvantaged, facilities that augment state-run institutions in Wisconsin.



A home for feeble-minded and epileptic children will be built in Watertown during the ensuing year under the auspices of a corporation formed at yesterday’s session of the Lutheran Children’s Friend convention.  Twenty acres of land have been offered by the two Lutheran congregations at that place, and accepted.  A similar offer of one acre at Saginaw, Mich., was declined.  The following were selected for the officers of the convention:  President, The Rev. H. Meyer, of St. Paul; vice-president, The Rev. H. Speckhard, Saginaw, Mich., secretary, The Rev. F. H. Eggers, Watertown, Wis., treasurer, Leonard Schempf, Watertown, Wis.


The following were selected as incorporators of the society, to take charge of the home:  The Rev. A. F. Ruben August Kelling, and W. H. Graebner.  The next convention will be held in Watertown.  [Milwaukee Evening Wisconsin]



In 1904, when there were few places available for people with developmental disabilities to turn, a group of forward-thinking Christians opened Bethesda as a place where individuals could turn for Christ-centered services and supports in a world where they were already shunned or forgotten.



On April 13, 1904, Bethesda opened its doors in a rented building on Margaret Street and was called The Faith House.  There were five clients and eight staff members.  The Faith Home was unable to renew its lease and moved to Milwaukee for three years.  In 1909, the facility moved back to Watertown and relocated to new quarters constructed on 40 acres of donated land.  It offered jobs and training to the people they supported.  Some early jobs included basket weaving and rug making.  When more land was added the facility began farming and raising their own food [the name Bethesda did not appear until 1924].




02 23       After considerable discussion the assembly (Madison) today ordered two engrossments of the Racek bill exempting forty acres of land belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran home for Feeble Minded at Watertown from taxation. The authorities of the home, which has been conducted in rented premises for several years, have purchased a tract of land near the outskirts of Watertown and are now engaged in raising money with which to erect the necessary buildings for the institution.  The bill was opposed on the grounds that it might open the door to abuses by enabling asylums and sanitariums conducted for private gain to escape taxation.


06 04       W. K. Weissvrodt, superintendent of the Lutheran Home for Feeble-Minded and Epileptics, left Monday for Vineland, New Jersey, where he will attend a meeting of the Association of Officers of American Institutions for Idiotic and Feeble-Minded-Persons.  On his return he will stop at Elwayn, Pa., Polk, Pa., Columbus, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Ind., to inspect the homes there and secure ideas as to the best plans for the proposed home to be built at Watertown. He will arrive here June 9.


07 14       We are informed, that the trees on the beautiful grounds where the exercises of the Ev. Luth. Home for the Feeble Minded were held Sunday, are to be cut down and the land platted into residence lots.  It is a shame.  The land should be purchased by the city and converted into a park.  There are only two small parks in the city, which are all out of proportion to its population and prospective growth. It is a matter that should receive the attention of the mayor and common council at its regular meeting.


11 08       Last Friday the board of Lutheran Home for Feeble Minded and Epileptic met at St. Mark's Church . . . W. K. Weissbrogt, Supt. of the Home, reported 40 inmates at present and that 6 more were admitted. This is the capacity of the Home so at present applicants for admission must wait until vacancies occur.  The large number of school classes makes it necessary to give Supt. Weissbrogt assistance in the shape of a second assistant which will be engaged as soon as a suitable person is found.  The school is progressing nicely, and at present preparing a program for a Christmas service which will take place in one of the Lutheran churches on Second Christmas Day eve.


12 22




The children will have a Christmas tree at the Home, and receive their presents early on the first Christmas Day.  On account of lack of room this affair must be of a private character.


But to give all friends of the institution a chance to celebrate with us, arrangements have been made to render a Xmas program at St. John's Lutheran Church.  Corner N. Fifth and Cady streets.  This children's service will be held December 26, 7:15 p.m.


12 26       The entertainment given last evening at St. John's Lutheran Church by children from the Home of the Feeble-Minded was marvelous in the extreme.  It demonstrated that wonderful mental improvement was being accomplished with the feeble-minded children at the Home and also proves the value of its work.


Thirty-five of the children were present at the exercises which were deeply interesting and if anyone was skeptical when they went they were convinced when the exercises were over that the mental and physical condition of the unfortunate was being greatly improved.  The church was packed from vestibule to altar and the galleries were crowded with interested people and many were unable to gain admission.


Prof. Schumacher presided at the organ and Rev. H. Eggers had charge of the liturgy and Rev. J. Klingmann delivered an address in which he spoke feelingly of the work being done in behalf of the children — the efforts to bring them to the Savior, that they might know and love him.  "As ye did it unto the least of these, ye did it unto me."  The answers of the children were clear and distinct and the singing especially fine, a beautiful Christmas tree was put up by a committee of St. John's congregation upon which, there was a box of candy contributed by Mrs. Lewis Junior.  The collection taken up for the benefit of the home amounted to $70.




Early Bethesda institution left Watertown in 1906, returned in 1909.

Prof. and Mrs. W. K. Weissbrodt, superintendent and matron of the home for feeble minded and epileptic children and Prof. and Mrs. E. M. Kirch, teachers in the institution, leave today for Milwaukee, to which city their household goods were shipped yesterday, where they will get things in readiness for the coming of the children, who are in the care of attendants and domiciled in the old church formerly occupied by Rev. Klingman and congregation, the congregations of both St. Marks and St. Johns churches having provided the necessary bedding and furniture for their comfort while they remain.


Prof. and Mrs. Weissbrodt appreciate to the greatest extent the kindness of the good people of Watertown and deprecate the necessity that occasions their departure for a time from the city and will be pleased when circumstances will admit of their return and the Home becomes a permanent fixture in Watertown — and the [Watertown] Republican voices the sentiments of the people here when regret is expressed for their departure even for a time, and all will be glad when they return to continue their work of sacrifice and love for the unfortunate children.    WR



01 15       Milwaukee News:  Plans have been prepared for a home for feeble minded and epileptics, in Watertown, Wis., and when the building is completed, the temporary home at 1380 Humboldt Avenue, this city [Milwaukee], will remove to the new quarters.  It is estimated that the building, which will be of solid brick, three stories high, will cost $25,000, and will furnish accommodations for sixty inmates.  There are thirty-nine children in the present home, with a waiting list of 175 now on hand. In view of these conditions the plans for the new building have been prepared with a view to the enlargement without defacing the architecture, from time to time, as the finances will permit.  The home is supported by the synodical conference, and a site for the building embracing forty acres of land with the corporate limits of the city of Watertown has been donated by the congregations, in the synod, independent, of the synod itself.   WG


09 11       On Lutheran Feeble-Minded Home site purchased last year in this city, it was decided to begin work on the building this fall.  Cost of the home will be about $30,000.  WG


10 02       F. J. Winker, who purchased the "Faith Home" in the Fifth ward last week at sheriff’s sale for $1675.50, has had an offer for it at a considerable advantage.   WG


10 16       Site for new home visited; site for building staked out   WG



When their lease on this location [Margaret St assumed] expired, the group moved the home to Milwaukee until 1909, when they returned to Watertown and built on the land originally promised to them.  The home also acquired an additional 80 acres of land at that time.  Between 1909 and 1936, the home grew in buildings and acres.  Eventually the home had several utility buildings, a main building, dormitory, industrial building, isolation hospital, and chapel as part of its campus.  Between 1936 and c.1985, all historic buildings on the site were demolished and replaced with large brick and concrete modern institutional buildings.  Only the chapel, which is attached to one of the modern buildings remains relatively intact.  The chapel at the Bethesda Lutheran Home has some local historical interest as the only remaining historic building on the grounds of the home.



At a meeting of the trustees of the Lutheran Home for the Feebleminded and Epileptics held in Milwaukee last night relative to the building of the home in Watertown, it was decided to open the bids of the contractors, from which plans and specifications have been submitted, on Monday, March 1, at 6 o’clock p.m. in the office of Architect H. W. Buemming, 521 Jackson Street, Milwaukee, and all proposals must be sent to the architect in Milwaukee.  Plans and specifications for the proposed new building are also on file in the office of the William Gorder company in Main Street.  It is proposed to begin work on the home as early in the spring as possible and have the building ready for occupancy by the autumn of 1909.  Messrs. William Gorder, F. W. Gamm and Albert Wegemann, trustees of the home here, attended a meeting of the trustees in Milwaukee last night.    WL



Though the weather was anything but desirable last Sunday, the annual festival of the Lutheran Home for Feeble Minded in this city was a great success.  Large delegations were in the city from nearby towns and about 600 came on the trolley from Milwaukee.  Dinner was served in the basement of the Home at noon.  The handwork of the children was exhibited in one of the rooms and was offered for sale and found ready buyers.  Everyone who visited the building was highly pleased with the good management so manifest on all sides and of the evidence that these poor unfortunate children were being well cared for.  Following was the program . . .    WG




The committee having in charge the building of the new Lutheran Home for Feeble Minded in this city, consisting of Herman Tetzlaff, Albert Wegemann and Leonard Schempf, have opened the bids and report the following, the lowest bidders and contracts will be drawn up accordingly:

S. Schmidt, mason work, $9537

A. Bartelt, lathing and plaster, 3118

C. A. Kleppe, carpenter work, 11886

Andrae & Co., wiring, 431

O. Biefeld & Co., iron work, 785

O. Biefeld & Co., heating, 2855

O. Biefeld & Co., plumbing, 4558

Grossert & Kuehn, tin work, 780

W. C. Raue & Sons, painting, 965                   WG


07 02       Lutheran Home Corner Stone Laid

A large number of people attended the laying of the corner stone of the Home for Feeble Minded [Bethesda] now being built in the southeastern part of the third ward, on what is known as “Boomer’s Pasture.”  In the corner stone were placed copies of the local newspapers, the names of the president of the United States, of the governor of Wisconsin and the mayor of Watertown, with a brief history of the erection of the home and the movement for the establishing of it.


Rev F. H. Eggers, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church, officiated.  The English address was delivered by Rev. O. Hagerdorn of Milwaukee, and Rev. J. T. Boeger of Racine spoke in German.  W. K. Weissbrodt, superintendent of the Feeble Minded Home in Milwaukee, read the history of the home since it was established.  St. John’s church band and the mixed choir of St. Mark’s Church furnished music for the occasion.  The corner stone is a plain block of sandstone and on its face is inscribed “A. D. 1909.”


The building will be a three-story brick and basement, the main building 48x87, with two wings 35x74 feet and 28x74 feet.  Alderman Charles Huenefeld of Watertown has the carpenter contract and Henry Schmidt of Milwaukee the contract for the mason work.  Otto Biefeld & Co. has the plumbing contract and Grossert & Kuehn the sheet metal work.  The building will be steam heated, electric lighted and contain everything modern.  It is admirably situated on the west bank of Rock River and will be a very pleasant home for the feeble minded people to be housed in.  It will accommodate about 80 pupils and the superintendent and family.  The contract calls for it being finished by October 15.     WG


[Watertown News, 07 02 1909 ] The corner stone is a plain block of sandstone on which is simply inscribed “A. D. 1909.”  The building is of brick, three stories high and basement.  It will be heated with steam and have all modern conveniences.  The water supply will come from an artesian well and will be patterned after the Kewaunee system where the supply is forced by air pressure to the different parts of the building.  It will be electric lighted throughout and has its own sewer system.  The main building faces the east; its dimensions are 87x48 feet; there is also a large wing 74x35 feet and an additional wing 37x28 feet.  The boiler room is 21x35 feet.


The superintendent of construction is August Kelling of Milwaukee.  The contract for the mason work is being done by Henry Schmidt of Milwaukee, while C. Huenefeld of Watertown has the contract for the carpenter work. The heating and plumbing will be done by Otto Biefeld & Company of Watertown and Grossert & Kuehn of this city has the contract for the sheet metal work. 


The building is delightfully situated on the brow of a hill overlooking Rock river to the east and it commands a fine view of the entire country in all directions, a really ideal location for an institution of this character.  To the west is a view of the sloping hills and fertile fields, to the south the wooded slopes and verdant fields and to the north and east the spires and tops of a thriving city, while below to the east rolls the placid Rock on its way to the sea.


It is expected that the building will be ready for occupancy about October 15 and when completed there will be room for eighty pupils besides the superintendent’s family and attendants.  When the landscaping work is finished it will be one of the most pleasant places within the confines of Watertown. 


The home has been constructed with a view to the future so that additions can be made thereto.  The demands made upon the institution at present far exceeds the room available, but they will be attended to as the finances permit.


W. K. Weissbrodt of Milwaukee will be the superintendent.  He has had charge of the institution both here and in Milwaukee and is well known in Watertown and admittedly a man who thoroughly understands this branch of work.  The Home is recognized by both Lutheran synods and will eventually house children from all parts of the United States.




“The rumor that the board of managers asked me to resign from my position as manager of the Evangelical Lutheran Home for Feeble-Minded Children at Watertown is entirely without foundation,” said William K. Weissbrodt, manager, when called on the telephone yesterday as to a report that he resigned.


“I left my Milwaukee home at 1308 Humboldt Avenue three months ago to go to Watertown, when the institution of which I am manager was moved here [Watertown]. I understood that certain members of the board thought that I did not manage the finances of the home to the best advantage, but the board as a whole was not dissatisfied.  If there is any extenuation needed for the fact that I did not do all that I should have liked to accomplish in connection with the management of the home, I believe it is furnished in the fact that I was shorthanded and was doing the work of two men.  I intend to go back to Milwaukee and shall go into the public schools as a teacher again.  The board and I are parting the best of friends.” — Milwaukee Free Press  /  WG


05 09  WDTimes

Lutheran Home Dedicated Sunday


Vast Assemblage Witness the Ceremonies in the Morning and Afternoon


New Home For Feebleminded Children Formally

Dedicated With Appropriate Exercises

Many Ministers Present


The new Lutheran Home for Feeble Minded Children recently constructed in the Third ward, was formally dedicated with appropriate services Sunday.  The program included services in the morning and afternoon, as a vast assemblage was present on both occasions, several hundred people coming from Milwaukee in the morning.  Excellent arrangements had been made to look after the comfort of the visitors and the wants of the inner man were supplied on the grounds, dinner being served for all who desired to partake.


The Northwestern University band and the mixed choir of St. Mark's and St. John's churches, together with a choir from Milwaukee, assisted in the program.  The morning services were conducted by the Rev. C. Gausewitz of Milwaukee and were in German.  In the afternoon the Rev. W. Uffenbeck of Portage conducted the services and the English address was delivered by the Rev. H. Fredrich of Hellenville.  The ceremonies were very impressive, the large audience at times joining in the hymns.  The following program was carried out:





N. W. U. Band





Dedicatory services



Rev. C. Gausewitz




The Children










N. W. U. Band






Rev. W. Uffenbeck




Rev E. Fredrich










The cornerstone of the building was laid with impressive services on Sunday, June 27, 1909.  The building is of brick, three stories in height and commands a view of the entire country surrounding, it being built on an eminence which overlooks Rock River to the east and the city proper to the north.  It is steam heated and supplied with all modern conveniences found in institutions of this character.  Its water supply is secured from artesian wells, the systems being patterned after the Kewaunee method, the water being forced by air pressure to the various parts of the buildings.   It has its own sewer system and the place is lighted with electricity.  The main building is 87 x 48 feet with wings 74 x 35 and 37 x 28 feet respectively.  It is delightfully situated on the brow of a hill overlooking Rock River and is an ideal spot for such an institution, being far enough removed from the city proper although within its borders.  The home is recognized by both synods of the church and is capable of housing 100 inmates.



10 21       BOOMER'S WOODS

The trustees of the Lutheran Home for the Feeble Minded have purchased of Chas. A. Vaughan, Boomer's woods, south of the home in the 3rd ward.  The tract contains 80 acres of fine land and is a valuable acquisition to the property now used in connection with this home.   WG


10 28       A number of Wisconsin charitable and educational institutions are beneficiaries under the will of Mrs. Augusta Vogel of Milwaukee, which was filed last week, disposing of an estate of $100,000 personal and $15,000 real property.  The Evangelical Lutheran Home for the Feebleminded, Watertown, is given $5000, Lutheran Altenheim Society $2000, Milwaukee Protestant Home for the Aged $2000, Northwestern University, Watertown, Milwaukee Protestant Orphan Asylum and the Children's Free Hospital, $500 each.   WG


12 09       On Tuesday the state board of control was in the city and inspected a site in the northwestern part of the city for a home for feebleminded.  They were here on invitation of the Watertown Advancement Association.  The members of the board here were: W. H. Graebner of Milwaukee, president of the board; Judge Cowie of Whitehall, Dr. A. J. Frisby of Milwaukee, and A. D. Conover of Madison.   WG




The annual festival of the dedication of the Lutheran Home for Feebleminded will take place at the home in the southwestern part of this city.  There will be religious services in the forenoon at 10:30 and in the afternoon at 2:30.  The Revs. Chr. Sauer of Juneau, J. F. Gericke of Lebanon and H. G. Moussa of Jefferson will be the speakers.  Rev. Moussa, former professor and athletic director of Northwestern College, will address the assemblage in the English language.  The mixed choirs of St. John's and St Mark's churches of this city and St. Stephen's Church of Milwaukee will participate.  The N. W. C. band will furnish the music.  Dinner and supper will be served at the home.  All friends of the children and of the institution are cordially invited to attend.   WG




Contracts for a new $20,000 addition to the Lutheran Home for Feeble-Minded has been let by the directors, following being the bids for the various parts of the work:


Henry Willenbockel & Son, carpenter work, $6848.

Mallow & Kaddatz, mason work, $6900.

Max W. Voigt, tin and galvanized iron work, $356.

Scheblak & Herzog, painting and glazing, $898.

Herman Andrae Electrical Co., Milwaukee, electric wiring, $250.

Otto Biefeld & Co. plumbing, $1575.

Otto Biefeld & Co., heating, $1281.

Dornfeld-Kunert Co., ironwork, $980.


The addition will cost over $20,000.  The excavating has been started and the building will be completed by October 15.   WG



On Tuesday and Wednesday about 40 delegates of Lutheran charitable institutions in America held a convention at the feeble-minded home [Bethesda] in this city, matters pertaining to homes for feeble-minded, hospitals, schools for deaf mutes, etc., being discussed.   WG




Monday evening a number of friends of Director Louis Pringel of the Lutheran Home for Feeble Minded tendered him a surprise birthday party at his new home on the grounds of the above named home.  A pleasant evening was passed and a splendid supper served.  Present were:  Rev. and Mrs. Julius Klingman, Prof. and Mrs. William Huth, Prof. and Mrs. J. M. Schiefer, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Tetzlaff, Mr. and Mrs. Fred W. Gamm, Mr. and Mrs. William Gorder, Sr., Mr. and Mrs. William Kohls.     WG




On Tuesday W. H. Woodard, C. A. Kading, Fred A. Hoffmann and Herman Werthheimer visited Madison and had a conference with the State Board of Control regarding the locating of the new state home for feebleminded in Watertown.   Unofficially the state board say they favor Watertown, but object to the price asked for some of the land here, saying all they are inclined to pay is $150 per acre.  The prices asked for the pieces of land desired by the state board per acre are as follows:


Joseph Brooks, 235 acres.............$140

Hartwig Estate, 231 acres............. 140

Arthur Koenig, 89 1/2 acres.......... 165

William Cody, 131 acres.......   ..... 225      WG


09 03       Ladies of the Milwaukee Aid Societies

Thursday of last week the directors of the Lutheran Home for Feeble-Minded entertained about 150 ladies of the Milwaukee aid societies of the various Lutheran congregations of that city.  They came here for the purpose of ascertaining what the home needs in order to intelligently assign the work to their different societies.  Dinner and supper were served to them at the home, and after attending to the business part of their visit, passed a very social time together.   WG


11 19       Donation Week

Thanksgiving week has been set as the annual donation week for local friends of the Lutheran Home for Feebleminded.  Gifts of money and eatables, including canned goods, vegetables, fruits and poultry will be sent to the home.  An arrangement convenient to prospective donors has been agreed upon.  Gifts may be left at any store in the city and they will be gathered up as notices reach the home.  Already many gifts of fruits and vegetables are being received.   WG



02 11       Directors and Officers of Feeble Minded Home Re-Elected.

At a meeting of the society at St. John’s church Tuesday, four members of the board of directors of the Lutheran Home for Feebleminded were elected.  Gustav Riedel of Milwaukee and Prof. William Huth and Herman Tetzlaff of this city were re-elected, and the vacancy caused by the resignation of William Stark was filled by the election of Carl Block to fill the unexpired term.


The board then met and re-elected the following officers:


President — Herman Tetzlaff.

Vice President — William Gorder.

Secretary — Prof. William Huth.

Financial Secretary — Gustav Riedel.

Treasurer — Fred Gamm.


The house committee for the following year will be composed of the following members of the board:                William Gorder, William Kohls, Carl Block.  WG


06 03       Annual Festival Next Sunday.

Lutheran Home For Feebleminded To Entertain.  The annual festival of the Evangelical Lutheran Home for Feebleminded and Epileptics will be celebrated on the grounds Sunday, June 6.


Divine services will be held forenoon and afternoon.  The orators for this festival occasion are the well-known Professors Kuhlow and Wendtland of Northwestern college.


The attending friends of the institution will have at the same time the rare treat of hearing classical German songs, The German Lutheran “Saengerbund’ of South Wisconsin, numbering 400 strong, will take part.  The excellent band of St. John’s congregation will also enhance the pleasure of the services by accompanying the hymns.


It is the way of German hospitality to take care of their visiting friends, and the ladies committee of St. John’s congregation has made great preparations to give justice to all visitors.


The committees of St. John’s congregation have not spared to prepare a meal that will be worth enjoying.


All friends of the institution are welcome and the directors and committees hope to meet them on the grounds.   WG


06 10       Annual Lutheran Festival Largely Attended.

The weather on Sunday last was ideal in Watertown and the result was that a very large crowd of people attended the annual festival of Lutherans at the Lutheran Home for Feebleminded.  The attendance was greater than on any previous occasion and many contributed liberally for the maintenance of this charitable institution.  The ladies of St. John’s Lutheran church who had charge of the dining rooms served over 800 people at dinner and nearly as many at supper.  Prof. E. A. Wendland gave a German address at the morning service and Prof. O. F. Kulow delivered an English address at the afternoon service.  The Lutheran Saengerbund of southern Wisconsin, made up of choirs of Lutheran churches, held their convention at the Lutheran home Sunday afternoon and rendered several splendid choruses.  The festival was a great success in every particular.   WG





       Two special trains from Milwaukee increase amount that attended


       Sermon by Rev. H. C. Jaus Feature of Afternoon’s Program and Prof. T. Schlueter Speaks to Children.


When people are offered such a combination as fine weather, fine spirits, fine entertainment and a big crowd of people the outcome of it is sure to be a good time.  This certainly was the case at the celebration held at the Home of the Feebleminded Sunday.


A Milwaukee contingent of 350 Lutherans of twenty-eight churches took two special trains on the electric road and added to the 6,000 that had already gathered from this city, Jefferson and Fort Atkinson.  The party was escorted to the home by the St. John’s band and the morning service in German which followed immediately was led by the Rev. Clarence Sheuer of Lowell, Mass.  The afternoon program was in English being featured by a sermon by the Rev. H. C. Jaus and a talk to the children by Prof. Theodore Schlueter of the Northwestern college.


Dinner and supper were served in one of the buildings by the ladies of St. Mark’s church.  Choir numbers were given by the Watertown members on the lawns surrounding the buildings which were specially decorated for the occasion.   Watertown Weekly Leader 




Lutheran Home For Feeble-Minded Too Small and Another Building Will Be Erected in the Near Future.


The present capacity of Bethesda, the Lutheran Home for Feebleminded, has been reached and it becomes necessary to double the capacity and with that end in view plans are now being drawn for the erection of a building with a capacity for 130 inmates.  The present structure now houses 140 and there are several applications on file which will completely fill the present home.


The new building will be erected just south of the present one and the barn on the location will be moved to the southern part of grounds far away from the home.  With the completion of the new building the home will be capable of housing 300 inmates.


Want Arc Lights.


Something that is badly needed near the home is better lighting along the road leading from the main highway to the park.  On dark nights when medical attendance is needed or for any other cause it becomes necessary to traverse this portion of the road one is at a loss to find the way in safety.  When it is known that the sum of $28,000 was expended in Watertown last year from outside sources, it would seem that aside from philanthropic reasons the city could with good grace install two arc lights between the main highway and the park at the north end of the grounds.


Does Much Good.


Watertown people hardly realize the great good that this institution is accomplishing in caring for those who cannot care for themselves.  A visit to the home is a revelation.  The ground contains one of the finest parks in the country while the land to the east of the home and running to the river is a garden in which are grown every variety of vegetable known in this section, in fact they grow more than the home uses, the balance being disposed of to purchasers.  They keep twenty milk cows which supplies the table with cream and butter, and this last season sold an abundance of strawberries, besides those used in the home.  Handsome flower gardens adorn the landscape the especial care of some of the inmates.


Taken altogether it has been made an ideal spot converting a hazel brush undergrowth into a finely kept garden and replete with beauty spots.


The superintendent is the Rev. J. C. Jaus, and the assistant superintendent is the Rev. E. Stroeln, both of whom look after the care and comfort and education of the inmates.   - The Watertown News, 08 20 1917




Home for feeble minded add $170,000, 2 story, 60x106. 

Architect: B A Messmer & Bros, 1006 Majestic bldg., Milwaukee

General contract let to Carl Block, 206 Division St, Watertown

Masonry let to Mallow & Kadditz, 309 Warren St, Watertown

Heating let to Otto Biefeld & Co, Watertown

Plumbing let to Mendenhall Co, Watertown

Start work soon.




This building, as shown here, is 410 feet long.  It contained at this time 152 patients.  It has a capacity of 250 patients.  In 1923 it contained 223 patients, 19 of them under the age of 10 years.  70 are from 10 to 20 years.   41 are from 20 to 30, 56 are from 30 to 50 years and 36 are over 50 years



This institution, as shown here, was built by and is the property of the Ev. Luth. Synod of Mo. And Wis.  Is also run and maintained by them.  There is a fair-sized farm connected to this institution, 35 cows and 5 horses, 135 hogs and 150 hens constituted the livestock, Jan 1 1923.  Patients from Wis. 67, Ill. 32, Neb. 20, Minn. 20, Mich. 16, Ohio13, Mo. 8, Ind. 7, Kans 5, Cal 3, Okla 3, Penn. 3, N.Y 2, ND 2, Ark 2, N.J; Ala, Conn, Ky, Md, SD, Utah, Wash, Can., each 1.



Old organ of St. Mark’s Lutheran church given to Bethesda.




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Perhaps nothings was remodeled as often as the small barracks that housed the classrooms in Milwaukee.  When Bethesda returned to Watertown, the little building was carefully taken apart piece by piece.  Even the tarred roofing was rolled up and shipped to Watertown.  Reassembled, it was first a laundry, housing a steam engine that both heated the water and ran the washing machine.  Next it became an isolation hospital, and in 1923, it ”was again raised to the honor of the school.”  Before long, four classrooms were erected, so the barracks again became a “hospital” and later a store room for old furniture and donations, before being torn down.  - Treasured Lives – The Story of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.. p. 65




     Building seen in background of image Bethesda_002_043








John Habeck, 46, an inmate of the Bethesda Lutheran Home for the past nine years, drowned last night in a small pool on the grounds of the institution, not far from where the Saturday Club erected a marker last year to designate the place where Timothy Johnson, Watertown's first white settler, built his cabin in 1836.  Mr. Habeck, subject to epileptic attacks, was evidently, seized with one when he visited the pool late in the afternoon and tumbled into the water.  He had been in the habit of visiting the pool daily and had been permitted to beautify it with stone.  He was proud of his work there.  Mr. Habeck was born in Ixonia and was a son of the late Fred and Wilhelmina Habeck.   WDT





Year Built: 1936; Architectural Style: Gothic Revival; Wall Material: Cream Brick; Architect: H. C. Haeuser


This 20th century late Gothic Revival styled chapel exhibits a simplified form that features dentil trim under the eaves, smooth surfaces articulated by simple pointed arched stained glass windows recessed in the plain brick elevations.  Built in 1936 at a cost of $26,000, the Bethesda Chapel originally was designed with an open balcony for wheelchairs and was equipped with a Wagnerian organ.    Abstracted from Wisconsin Historical Society, Architecture and History Inventory record.



-- --           JAHRESFEST 


The old-time annual gathering known as the Jahresfest, which was held annually for many years, was abandoned during World War II.  In its place, during the intervening years, the Milwaukee Bethesda Auxiliary held its annual summer meeting at the home on the third Thursday of July.  This event was revived in 1960 and gave members and their families an opportunity to spend a day at the home and enjoy the outdoor park and the spacious grounds at the institution.  




         Children of Madison Woman May Not Marry Catholics or Jews

If any of the children of Mrs. Elsie E. Runge Karasek of Madison marry Catholics or Jews half of their share of the money of her estate will go to the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown the will of Mrs. Karasek who died 6/29, discloses.







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The Bethesda Lutheran Home on whose property the city marker designating the site of the first cabin to be erected by a settler in Watertown is located, will be paid $25.00 per year to maintain the plot around the marker which up to a short time ago was virtually hidden in weeds and was sadly neglected.


The city council recently reached an agreement with the institution to have it maintain the site, after the city street department grades it properly.



                Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West, later known as Good Shepherd Communities, established by Bethesda   WDT



10 18       CABBAGES

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George Frick, Sr., gardener at Bethesda Lutheran Home, which raises its own vegetables







11 12       Constantly increasing requests and applications for admission to the Bethesda Lutheran Home here have resulted in more and more emergency entries of patients for whom immediate care must be provided, with the result that the home is now constructing additional facilities to meet the need, it was disclosed today in a report by officials of the home.  The institution has become more and more overcrowded as a result of the new admissions and something had to be done to reach a solution, the report pointed out.  Early in the spring of 1954 the board of directors of the home decided to build the most economical facilities possible which would serve the largest number quickly.  The building was planned later to be used for other purposes when sufficient room became available in permanent quarters.  For this purpose a Quonset type construction was decided upon.  Construction has been started on the emergency dormitory to house 25 older boys and men.  A couple to serve as house parents are already at Bethesda in the persons of Mr. and Mrs. Otto Hedricks.  The building is to be of steel construction with adequate insulation and all modern conveniences.  A steam convector heating system is to be used in the living quarters while the large bedroom is to be heated by Modine radiators.   



10 22       An announcement revealing recent activities and future plans at the Bethesda Lutheran Home was issued here today following the annual meeting of the board members of the institution.  It is estimated the planned building program at Bethesda Lutheran Home will amount to approximately $2,000,000 in the construction of a four-story hospital type dormitory for aged patients, and to include an infirmary and various types of therapy.  A new school of ten rooms and junior size gymnasium is also to be constructed.  Finally, the remodeling program will be completed as a part of the building program.    



02 25       The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, of which St. John's Church of Watertown is a member, today announced plans for its $5,000,000 building campaign which is to be held Sunday, March 20 in 4,000 churches of the synod throughout the United States.  The Bethesda Lutheran Home is one of five auxiliary organizations of the church body which is to share in the funds of the campaign.  The Bethesda Lutheran Home's share is $1,700,000 which is to be used to complete a vast remodeling program at the institution and to erect new dormitories and a school for the mentally retarded persons for which it provides care and training.   



01 04       Plans are well advanced for a two million dollar expansion program at the Bethesda Lutheran Home, it was announced yesterday by the Rev. Clarence F. Golisch, superintendent.  “We are bursting at the seams,” the superintendent said.  He reported that the institution is caring for 466 patients, which is many more than state regulations allow.  After the expansion program is completed, the institution will accommodate 750 patients.  He prophesied, because of the great demand for the type of care offering by Bethesda, that eventually there would be a thousand patients with the expanded facilities designed for 750.    



05 11       In a letter which Bethesda Lutheran Home officials have sent to the Water Commission here, the needs for better fire protection at the institution, through added water facilities being made available in the area, are being stressed.  The letter asks extension of a six-inch water line for a distance of 2,225 feet to be part of the proposed project.  This would enable more water hydrants in case of need in fires and the installation would favorably affect the institution's fire insurance rating.    05 11



05 25       Ground breaking ceremonies for the new dormitory and school at the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 3.  Bethesda Home cares for 460 mentally retarded and physically handicapped persons, offering care for the body, training for the mind, and Christian instruction and guidance through its religious program.  The new dormitory will provide a geriatric area and a completely equipped infirmary.  Space and equipment will also be available to handle emotionally disturbed patients.  The school will contain nine classrooms, a junior gymnasium and offices.  This building is made necessary by the present over-crowded conditions, with more than 125 on the waiting list.  The entire project which will cost approximately two million dollars, is financed through a grant from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and donations from member churches of the Synodical Conference.  Architect for the new unit is Edgar A. Stubenrauch, Sheboygan.  


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06 17       A notable milestone in the history of the Bethesda Lutheran Home took place yesterday afternoon when ground breaking ceremonies were held for two new buildings - a hospital or adult building and a school. The cost of the two units will be $2,000,000. The new facilities will enable the institution to handle 750 patients, which is almost 300 more than the current population. The first shovel of dirt for the new adult or hospital building was turned by Louis Pingel, who until his retirement has been superintendent of the institution for nearly 30 years, whose long range planning has included the present building program. The second shovel was turned by Dr. Otto F. Dierker, president of the board; and the third by the Rev. Clarence F. Golisch, superintendent. The first shovel of dirt for the school was turned by Chaplain Adolph M. Harstad. Other shovels were turned by Arthur Mallow, member of the board, and Walter Manthey, treasurer and member of the board.   



08 13       The two newest buildings at the Bethesda Lutheran Home which are now nearing completion are to be dedicated on Sunday, Oct. 20.  Those buildings are the $1,300,000 Ritter Memorial Dormitory, partial use of which has been promised in September, and the new $200,000 Pingel School, named in honor of Louis Pingel, for many years superintendent of the home.  The new dormitory includes a geriatric area for older patients and a completely equipped infirmary.  There is also special space for emotionally disturbed residents.  The Pingel School building has nine classrooms, with additional classrooms if needed, as well as recreational space, teachers' offices and the like.  Orville Madsen and Son, Minneapolis, are the general contractors and the architects are Edgar A. Stubenrauch and Associates of Sheboygan.    



01 29       Louis Pingel, “The Grand Old Man of Bethesda,” honored.  Associated with the home for 50 years    WDT


04 03       Plans announced for dual dedication services on Sunday, April 13 and Sunday, April 20, for newly completed Louis Pingel School, the Linda Ritter Memorial Dormitory, and the Manual Arts School.   WDT


04 11       The first of two dedication services for the Louis Pingel School, the Linda Ritter Memorial Hospital and the Manual Arts School at the Bethesda Lutheran Home was held yesterday afternoon at the home.   WDT


                Bethesda Thrift Shop started    WDT



The board of directors of the Bethesda Lutheran Home has instructed its executive committee and the management of the home to take the necessary steps to deed a plot of ground to the Watertown Historical Society.  This plot is to be sufficiently large to enable the society to erect a log cabin on the site.  Such a log cabin is to further mark the spot as an historical location where a stone marker thus far has been placed.  This marker locates the site of the first home established by the first settler in the Watertown area. The marker can be found just at the bend of the road on Hoffman Drive as this street nears the Rock River (Hoffman Drive has been named after a member of the board of directors of Bethesda Lutheran Home in its early days, the late Fred Hoffman who did a great deal to make the location of the home possible in Watertown.)  Hoffman Drive leads off of Johnson Street which joins Milford Street (county highway “A”) at the North Western Railroad track crossing.  The Timothy Johnson family was the first settlers in the Watertown area.  The marker is located on the grounds of Bethesda Lutheran Home.  The home is a school and home for mentally retarded, epileptic and otherwise handicapped persons.   WDT


10 16       Ed Rindfleisch new president; retirement of Dr. Otto F. Dierker   WDT


12 19       New life-size figurines enhance Christmas scene at home   WDT



03 20       Earl E. Mundt, resignation of; superintendent of BLH for many years   WDT


08 01       Col. Clarence F. Golisch, executive director of Bethesda, ordered to report for duty, Army Reserve   WDT




For many years friends of Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown have sent items of surplus clothing to the home to be used for the Bethesda patients.  In recent years the volume of these donations has increased immeasurably.  This clothing has always been sorted and the items that were usable by the patients were stocked in the supply system of Bethesda.  The balance became more and more of a problem as the surpluses accumulated.  In May of 1958 Fred Nienoof the Bethesda staff was given the assignment to locate and start a store operation in Watertown.  The result was the opening of the Bethesda Thrift Shop at 204 West Main Street.  WDT


06 18       JAHRESFEST

The Bethesda Lutheran Home is about to revive its old-time annual gathering known as the Jahresfest, an event that has not been held for some 20 years.  The revival is slated for Sunday, July 17 and is expected to draw thousands of persons to Watertown for the occasion.  The Jahresfest, which was held annually for many years, was abandoned during World War II.  In its place, during the intervening years, the Milwaukee Bethesda Auxiliary held its annual summer meeting at the home here on the third Thursday of July.  This year the auxiliary will come here on July 17 to attend the Jahresfest.  It will give members and their families an opportunity to spend a day at the home and enjoy the outdoor park and the spacious grounds at the institution.   WDT




The Rev. Clarence F. Golisch, L.L.D., executive director of Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, has been made a “Fellow” in the American Association on Mental Deficiency at the 86th Annual President’s Dinner in New York City.  The award was given “in recognition of meritorious contributions to the field of mental deficiency.”  He is privileged to use the signature F.A.A.M.D.  WDT




While thousands of young people all over the country are swimming and playing, 16 International Walther Leaguers are spending three weeks at Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown painting, scrubbing, sanding and cleaning.  The 16 are all part of the first group to arrive for the Walther League summer work camp.  Another group of 16 is due to arrive Aug. 3 and will also stay three weeks.  “We are very pleased with the way the camp is working out,” Dr. C. F. Golisch, executive director of the home, said today.   WDT



04 22       RECORD ENROLLMENT OF 660

Due to a record enrollment of 660 mentally retarded patients, the Plenary Board of Directors of Bethesda Lutheran Home adopted a new record high operation budget of $1,688,514 for the 1965-66 fiscal year, according to the Rev. Clarence Golisch, executive director of the home.  The budget was determined in the recent meeting of Bethesda’s Plenary Board, a policy-directing board consisting of 24 members.  It is presided over by Edward A. Rindfleisch of Jefferson. Members from Watertown are Roland F. Dierker, 312 Main Street, and Arthur H. Mallow, 23 Park View Lane.  The former is a partner in Dakin and Dierker, a law firm, and the latter is owner of the H. F. Mallow and Son Company, a construction company.  A Johnson Creek member of the board is Rev. F. C. Dobratz, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church. WDT



Bethesda Lutheran Home recently took a giant step toward implementing a massive cooperative out-reach program.  In a sweeping change of policy, this new approach would direct Bethesda activity and influence throughout the United States in comprehensive services to the mentally retarded and handicapped on a church and community level.  “Though this exciting development is one with fantastic potential,” stated Dr. C. F. Golisch, Bethesda’s executive director, “it is conditional and dependent upon the approval and cooperation of the supporting Lutheran synods.”   WDT




Edward A. Rindfleisch, 58, owner and officer of the Rindfleisch Hatchery Farm Store for 19 years, has accepted a position as business manager at Bethesda Lutheran Home.  In that capacity, he will supervise 87 personnel in the management of four departments:  house services, office services, farm services, and maintenance.  He replaces Earlin Krohn who has accepted the position of administrator of the Wisconsin Lutheran Convalescent home in Milwaukee.  As business manager, Mr. Rindfleisch will assist the executive director, Dr. C. F. Golisch, in the line of responsibilities of operating the home, school and hospital for retarded and handicapped Lutherans.  He will handle purchasing, contractual details, and overall business functions of the institution.    WDT



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Mrs. Eunice Gruner, Watertown commercial artist, has donated a 19 x 6 foot mural to Bethesda Lutheran Home.  On display in Bethesda’s main lobby, the traditional scene of “Christ and the Little Children” (Luke 18) was made contemporary to the institution’s situation with the use of retarded and handicapped children in the picture.


Painted particularly for the 670 mentally retarded residents of this local home, hospital, and training school, the artist wished the mural to say:  Here are the arms of Christ right here at Bethesda.”  She hoped the home’s patients would identify with the 17 figures being received by Christ.


Seven months in the making, 1,000 hours were spent in the mural’s creation.


Dr. Clarence F. Golisch, executive director of the church-related institution, commented:  This beautiful mural is a concise summary of the reason Bethesda has existed for 62 years.  The fact that our Lord is here among us, speaking through our lips and working with our hands, has been concretely stated in Mrs. Gruner’s visualization.”


Of the 17 figures, only one has a living counterpart.  The boy on Christ’s lap was modeled after an eight-year-old hydrocephalic.


Mrs. Gruner received her B.S. degree in art education from the University of Wisconsin in 1933, after which she taught art three years in Reedsburg, Wisconsin.  Her involvement in home life replaced her career, until 13 years ago a minister encouraged her to return to art.  Since then, she has been a commercial artist in Watertown, where she has organized Hometown Prints, a firm which custom designs greeting cards and notepaper for both American and foreign consumers.


As part of her future, Mrs. Gruner visualizes other murals of a smaller scale for Bethesda.  “There are infinite possibilities of scenes tying in the religious aspect with the meaning of Bethesda’s mission to the retarded.”   WDT


Cross reference:  Our Society has a Gruner painting




Bids were received and contracts awarded for construction of a new service building for Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, yesterday by the executive board of the home. The new service building, designed by Durrant, Deininger, Dommer, Kramer, Gordon, Architects and Engineers, Watertown, consists of 45,600 square feet on two levels. It will house the complete laundry and dry-cleaning facility for the entire Home. The laundry will be one of the most modern installations in the country.   WDT



The Bethesda Lutheran Home of Watertown has been granted permission by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to enlarge a waterway adjacent to the Rock River.  Bethesda Home plans to construct several lagoons on its property.  Each will have an average depth of four feet and will be irregular in shape.  The lagoons will overflow to a drainage ditch which empties into the Rock River.  The purpose of the project is primarily for aesthetic value within a park setting which is part of the Bethesda property.



Work on the current phase of the expansion program undertaken by the Bethesda Lutheran Home is centering on the new services building which is progressing quite on schedule.  The total project cost is placed at $1,225,132.  Durrant-Deininger-Dommer-Kramer-Gordon, architects and engineers of Watertown, are the architects.  According to Edward Rindfleisch, business manager of the institution, the programming of the services building includes the planning for future expansion needs, which consists of an activities building and dormitories and incorporates a master plan developed by the architects.   WDT



Bethesda Lutheran Home is in process of landscaping about four acres of land to be called Eicksteadt Park.  The swampy breeding ground for mosquitoes is otherwise totally useless land, due to poor surface drainage and the presence of springs.  It is, therefore, unfit for cultivation.  The development of such a park came as the result of a bequest of Mrs. Myrtle E. Eicksteadt, who, under the provisions of her will, specifically earmarked a sum of money to be used to the glory of God for the beautification of Bethesda’s grounds and as a memorial to her husband, the Rev. P. J. Eicksteadt, and herself.    WDT




14 acres with a main lodge, three cabins for the campers, one cabin for volunteers, one staff cottage and a one-of-a-kind accessible tree house.



A framed certificate of merit was presented to William Brennan, Watertown High School senior, for his lifesaving efforts during a fire last July 14 at Bethesda Home.  The 1967 award was presented by the Jefferson County Council of the Veterans of Foreign Wars during half-time ceremonies at the Gosling/Oconomowoc basketball game Friday night.  Young Brennan, employed as a ward attendant at Bethesda, was cited for his efforts in evacuating 84 non-ambulatory handicapped patients during the fire.  Presenting the merit award to the youth was Albert Groska, Brookfield, Second District commander of the VFW. Brennan is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Brennan, 400 South Washington Street.   



Miss Margaret Taras, R.N., who has served Bethesda Lutheran Home as director of nursing since July 16, 1968, recently resigned from her position.  Employees honored Miss Taras for her services to this home for the mentally retarded and physically handicapped at a luncheon and reception.  Her contributions were also recognized by members of the board of directors, department directors, and supervisors of the nursing department at a farewell dinner.  “It is with deep regret that I leave Bethesda,” Miss Taras stated.  “I have never before worked with such dedicated people; they have always been most cooperative.  It was indeed a privilege to work at the home.”   



Since the fall of 1967, Bethesda Lutheran Home has been working on a project to expand the opportunities of residents who, with extra training, have the potential to eventually live independently.  This project consists of two major parts, running concurrently with each other: experience in community living, and job training and placement.  “The object is to bridge the gap between their lives in the institution and independent living in the outside world,” the Rev. Donald Nordmeyer, program director of Bethesda, stated.  David Geske, director of social service, Pastor Nordmeyer and Dean Schneck, who is working on his master’s degree in social work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, have been instrumental in the planning of the project.



Over 400 persons were present at Bethesda Lutheran Home here Sunday afternoon for the dedication of the new services building which is a memorial to Clara and Spencer Werner of Paris, Ill.  The weather was ideal and people present came from far and near.  Immediately following the service, Dr. Golisch stated that in greater measure than anyone else, the Werners have made this building possible.  “Both husband and wife came from Milwaukee.  In 1934 they moved to Paris, Ill., and bought the Illinois Cereal Mill, Inc., which greatly prospered.  Dr. Golisch said that with the profits derived from the cereal mill they established the Clara and Spencer Werner Foundation in 1952 — a foundation with the sole endeavors of financing projects for the Lutheran Church.   



The Watertown Agri-Business Club elected Harold Niedfeldt, 126 Riverlawn Avenue, as its president. Mr. Niedfeldt is the farm manager at Bethesda Lutheran Home.  He is also active in the Holstein Breeders Association and serves as a trustee for the Jefferson County Home, and a past officer of the Watertown Lions Club.  Other officers elected were Kenneth Degner, Ixonia, vice president, Leslie Huber, 1025 Boughton Street, secretary and treasurer.  



Many of the women from 37 congregations in and around Watertown, who are members of the Watertown Regional Bethesda Auxiliary, have been active in volunteer work at Bethesda’s Thrift Shop located at 204 West Main Street in Watertown.  They will be celebrating the Thrift Shop’s 10th year of business as an auxiliary project by having special sales Sept. 26 and 27 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.  Coffee and cookies will be served to the customers to help the ladies celebrate. For these past ten years, donations of clothing, appliances, and so forth that cannot be utilized at the home, have been priced and then taken to the Thrift Shop for sale. Since 1958, the store has had gross sales of $131,860.38. All profits go to Bethesda Lutheran Home to help in its mission to person who are mentally retarded and physically handicapped.  




Henry M. Stoeppelworth, 323 Riviera Drive, director of development at Bethesda Lutheran Home, has resigned his position, and has accepted the newly created position of executive secretary and development director for the Lutheran High School Association of Milwaukee.  The position of director of development at Bethesda was created in September of 1965.  He was the first to hold the newly created position.  Before that he has been director of public relations at Bethesda for five years.  He came to Bethesda in 1960.  



Ground was broken for a new “sheltered workers” residence at Bethesda Lutheran Home.  This is the continuing improvement of Bethesda’s facilities to replace obsolete buildings with new fire-resistant buildings, as is the purpose of this “sheltered workers’ residence.” 


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The building is arranged to have three sections, a central section with wings on two sides having duplicate facilities of 12 double bedrooms and an enclosed outdoor court for each wing.  The central section will provide for the apartment for the house parents.



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In addition to the tour a program was presented by residents of the home.


Mrs. William Scherdin, Jefferson, region 2 vice-president; Mrs. William Kwapil, Watertown, vice president; Mrs. Philip Simonis, Rothschild, state external executive vice-president; Mrs. James Wartinbee, Brookfield, state Jaycette president; Mrs. George Raether, Watertown chapter president; Mrs. Ronald Neuendorf, Beaver Dam, internal executive vice-president; Mrs. Charles Bredek, Kenosha, region 2, state vice-president; Mrs. William Schmidt, Watertown chapter vice-president; Mrs. Al LaBelle, Watertown, past president and tour chairman, Mrs. Richard Mittelstadt, Fort Atkinson, region 2 vice-president.


In Watertown the local Jaycettes have assisted in setting up the retarded nursery school and assisted the teacher in the classroom. They have participated in the big sister program at Bethesda and served as volunteers. They have also taken retarded children from the community on field trips and are in the process of supporting and assisting the Youth Association for Retarded Children and their work with teenage retarded children and their families in the community.


09 25       $30,000 FIRE AT BETHESDA

Fire caused estimated damages of $30,000 to two farm buildings at the Bethesda Lutheran Home Wednesday.  Firemen were called to the scene at 4:24 p.m. to extinguish a blaze to the pig barn and hay stack.  All off duty and auxiliary personnel were called to battle the fire.  The fire was brought under control and extinguished approximately one and one-half hours after the department arrived.  Damage to the building was estimated at $25,000, and the contents of $5,000.  A total of 156 pigs were lost.



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A television crew from the National Broadcasting Company [NBC] finished taping and recording a color telecast in Watertown.


The telecast, a documentary on the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, will be shown on Milwaukee television, station WTMJ, channel four, on the evening of June 14, 1970.


Doris Ann, producer of the documentary film, along with the camera and sound crew, were in Watertown the past several weeks shooting scenes at the Bethesda Home and several areas of the city.


Miss Ann said she got very good cooperation from the officials of the home as well as the patients at the home and found it a joy to work in Watertown.


The film, being shot in 16mm color, shows the various aspects of the life of the patients at the home. Several scenes were made at the National Foods Store. The scenes showed how some of the patients are allowed to do their own shopping and use the public facilities in Watertown.


One of the scenes shot was made at the Classic Theatre showing the patients entering the theatre to view a film.  The management of the theatre allows the Bethesda to view the movies free of charge.






1975 -1998


       Alex Napolitano

Alex served Bethesda from 1975 to 1998 as the organization’s first executive director professionally trained in the care of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  He led Bethesda through challenging times — when views about where people with developmental disabilities should live prompted increased government involvement in care, when new technologies stimulated significant changes in operations, and when funds ran so short there were times when staff were not paid.  Whatever swirled around him, he held up Bethesda’s mission as the key to the future.   2014-15 Bethesda Annual Report, pgs 14-15.



02 06       LAND SOLD FOR PARK

The Watertown City Council agreed Tuesday evening to purchase approximately nine acres of land from Bethesda Lutheran Home as a future park site.  The vote was 11 to 3 in favor of the purchase.  Aldermen George Ebert, Walter Nuernberg and Joseph Ready opposed purchase of the property which is priced at $23,000.  The nine acre parcel is located on Milford Street in the southwest corner of the city.






10 22       Three buildings at Bethesda Lutheran Home have been demolished to make room for a badly needed parking lot.  The oldest unit, the Eggers building, was erected in 1909 for a cost of $35,000.  The second section of the Eggers building was constructed in 1913.  In 1922 the Tetzlaff building, part of a $175,000 building project, was put up.  It was connected to the Eggers building by a long corridor which after remodeling to the front and rear became the Prange building.  In recent years it housed administrative offices which have been moved to the remodeled Pingel School building.  None of the demolished units met state fire codes and residents hadn't lived there for three to four years.  Besides tearing down the three buildings, the back wall of the chapel, which was the front wall of the Tetzlaff building, was also destroyed.  A new wall and gift shop will be constructed.  In addition to the gift shop and parking area, Bethesda opened its new lobby about two weeks ago.   


11 26       Bethesda Lutheran Home will lay the cornerstone for its new chapel and spiritual life center at 2:30 p.m. Sunday.  An open house in the home's newly remodeled areas and presentation of the 1980 Pool of Bethesda Award are also planned in conjunction with the event.  Following the ceremony, the 1980 Pool of Bethesda Award will be presented to Dr. Clarence Golisch, who headed Bethesda from 1950 to 1972.  The award was created by the home in 1979 to recognize outstanding contributions of service and leadership in the field of mental retardation.  Previous recipients are Dale Evans Rogers and Chaplain Herbert Munderich of California.   




A new $2.5 million chapel and religious education center will be dedicated by Bethesda Lutheran Home on Sunday, March 14, (Mental Retardation Sunday) at 2:30 p.m.  “This is one of the few structures in the United States designed to make worship more meaningful to mentally retarded and physically handicapped persons,” says Alexander Napolitano, the Home’s executive director.  Made possible by a gift from Edna, Meta, Alvin and Walter Schujahn in memory of their parents, Frank and Anna Kiekhaefer Schujahn, the structure is named the Schujahn Memorial Chapel of The Good Shepherd and Spiritual Life Center.  





A $717,000 project at Bethesda Lutheran Home will result in the relocation of 46 residents to updated quarters and the addition of two services.  The 13,107-square-foot lower level of Dierker Building C will be partitioned into 10 four-bed and three two-bed rooms.  Each room will have bath and toilet facilities and built-in wardrobes.  The residents will be moved into Dierker C from the third floor of the Ritter Building, which will be converted into a resource and diagnostic center.   




Rose Christian, who has worked the last 20 years as a residential aide, is among Bethesda Lutheran Home employees honored this week for longevity, A.L. Napolitano, executive director, announced.  Christian, of rural Watertown, began her employment on Jan. 20, 1965, as a ward parent (the term then used for residential aide) in the children's ward of the old Tetzlaff building, which has since been razed.  Awards for 10 years went to Arlene Buske, medical records clerk; Nana Pirkel, clinic clerk; Arlis Meske, clothing aide, and Ruth Seeber, residential aide.  All reside in Watertown.  Employees who completed five years of service were Nancy Klokow, clinic clerk; Ovella Mecalf, houseparent at Bethesda's training group home at 506 South Washington Street, and Faye Vokoun, registered nurse. All reside in Watertown.   WDT



Alexander L. Napolitano, executive director of Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, received a longevity award Feb. 18 for 10 years of service as head of this nationally known training and treatment center for developmentally disabled children and adults.  Walter F. Tesch, a member of Bethesda's board of directors, presented the award to Napolitano, citing him for “leading Bethesda to the position of pre-eminence in the care and teaching of mentally retarded people.”  Napolitano, who came to Bethesda Feb. 1, 1975, credited the accomplishments achieved over the last 10 years to the support of the board of directors and the hard work performed by a dedicated staff.   WDT



Bethesda recently honored 7,700 volunteers who gave nearly 90,000 hours of service during 1985 in recognition of National Volunteer Week.  A volunteer’s name is engraved on a plaque in Bethesda’s main lobby for 5,000 hours of service and a star is placed by the name for every 2,500 hours of added service.  Elsie Degnitz of Watertown received second stars after completing 10,000 hours of service. Wanda Fischer, Oconomowoc, had a star added by her name for 7,500 hours and Dorothy Person, Watertown, had her name placed on the plaque for 5,000 volunteer service hours.  Certificates of appreciation for 4,000 hours of service were given to Anita Steffen, Watertown, Harvey Krueger, Watertown, and Maxine Dargue, Waupun.   WDT



10 01       Eight employees who have worked a combined total of 100 years at Bethesda Lutheran Home are being honored for their service this month.  Heading the list are Verena Papiernik, residential aide, and David Tietz, print shop supervisor, both of whom began working at Bethesda 25 years ago.  Other staff members receiving service awards are: Bonnie Sprengel, licensed practical nurse, 15 years; Audrey Hale, clothing aide; and Phyllis Guetzlaff, social service clerk, 10 years; Roberta Roe and Roxanne Grimmer, residential aides, and Russell Fathauer, director, each for five years.  WDT



04 20       Marlys S. Taege, corporate affairs administrator of Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, will receive the Southeastern Wisconsin Women in Communications prestigious Headliner Award at a dinner in her honor May 7 at the Bluemound Country Club in Wauwatosa.  The Headliner is awarded annually to the WICI chapter to a nominee who had demonstrated a high standard of professional achievement, service to the community and/or a fair portrayal of women in the media.  Taege is the author of three books, charter member of the Hawks Inn Historical Society, 1986 Lutheran Woman of the Year, and has spent 37 years in the profession of communications.    WDT


04 30       Darlene Turke, living area assistant on the Olson Manor living area, has been named Bethesda Lutheran Home’s employee of the year.  Wayne Kottmeyer, Bethesda’s senior administrator, presented the annual award for excellence to Turke at an employee in-service.  “What makes this award even more special is the fact that the employees are nominated by their peers,” Kottmeyer said.  “The residents are all like my kids,” Turke said, “I find Bethesda to be a very happy place where the residents receive a lot of attention and a lot of love.”  WDT


07 27       Joan Wright and Bernadette Maron recently were honored for 20 years of service at Bethesda Lutheran Home, according to A.L. Napolitano, executive director.  Wright serves as the assistant administrator and Maron is an inventory clerk at Bethesda, a home, school and treatment center that has provided Christian care and training to mentally retarded children and adults since 1904.  Maron started as a part-time helper in the stenography pool before she transferred to central supply as a clerk.  She is now a clerk in the purchasing department.   WDT


09 07       Rev. Frederick A. Stiemke, religious life administrator at Bethesda Lutheran Home, has been named chairman of the religion division of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Association on Mental Deficiency (AAMD).  The appointment, made by the Wisconsin AAMD executive committee, is effective Oct. 22.  As chairman of the religion division, Stiemke will also serve on the Wisconsin executive committee.  “We are glad to see Rev. Stiemke’s appointment,” said Bethesda Executive Director A.L. Napolitano.  “He will be a strong advocate of the need for mental retardation professionals to meet clients’ spiritual needs.  WDT




With more than eight newsletters, numerous brochures and forms for all of its 32 nationwide facilities, Bethesda Lutheran Home’s printing needs are indeed vast.  In order to meet those needs, Bethesda has recently completed construction of a new, million dollar printing facility at its main Watertown campus.  “The new 11,760-square-foot building will nearly double the space available for Bethesda’s print operations,” said Dave Tietz, print shop manager.  “We will be printing 12 hours a day, five days a week and may increase those hours if it takes off like we’re hoping it will.”   WDT




Mayor David R. Lenz said today he will oppose any plans to locate the proposed industrial access spur on a major part of land owned by Bethesda Lutheran Home.  Bethesda officials have asked the city to locate the road further south than the initial location, which starts roughly at the intersection of County Trunk Y and state Highway.  This route, used in preliminary planning to obtain state funding for the project, is opposed by Bethesda because it would bisect land planned for expansion of a camping facility.  To date, the city has not formally endorsed a location, and Lenz said he would not support a route that would adversely affect Bethesda’s proposed expansion.   WDT



Plans for the expansion of a recreational facility and a corporate center at Bethesda Lutheran Home have been placed on hold until city officials select a final route for a proposed industrial access spur.  Bethesda spokesman Richard Lowe said the organization originally planned to start work last spring, but delayed construction after learning that the spur’s route could cut through the land set aside for expansion of Camp Matz.  Since that time, city officials have moved the proposed location of the road to the southern edge of Bethesda’s property in an attempt to leave intact the land intended for the camp’s expansion.  Still, Bethesda officials are waiting for a definite road location before proceeding with their own plans.    WDT








Mayor Frederick Smith helped officials and residents of Bethesda Lutheran Home dedicate the expansion of the Camp Matz facility Sunday afternoon.  A dedication ceremony was held in the outdoor chapel of the facility, which was expanded to give Bethesda residents access to a three-season camp.  The idea for camping on Bethesda property in Watertown began in 1969 when a farm was donated for recreational purposes.  However, Bethesda officials decided to develop land closer to the Watertown campus so that the facility would be easier to reach and used more often.  A wooded area on the west end of the Watertown campus was selected for use as a day and overnight camping program.  The name, Camp Matz, comes from the farmer who donated the Door County land.   WDT




HORICON —The Bethesda Lutheran Home was the beneficiary of a special gift of $95,000 thanks to the hard work of the 300 volunteers who contributed to the success of the annual Bethesda Country Fair this year.  The gift was presented to Bethesda during the Country Fair meeting at the warehouse of the Bethesda Country Fair Store in Horicon Thursday.  Brad Jentsch, Bethesda marketing coordinator, and Tom Heuer, annual giving counselor with Bethesda’s development staff, told the gathering the largest part of the gift would be used to purchase personal items and furnishings that will directly benefit the residents at Bethesda.  About one-third of the gift will be used for furnishings such as carpeting or drapes as needed.  




In recognition of his lifetime of ministry with individuals who are mentally retarded, Chaplain Frederick Stiemke of Bethesda Lutheran Home will be awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree May 28 by Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.  After serving as a chaplain in North Carolina state and county psychiatric and mental retardation centers, Stiemke became chaplain of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services in 1974.  Twelve years later he was named to his present position of religious life administrator, with responsibility for supervising chaplains at Bethesda campuses in Watertown, Cypress, Texas, Olathe, Kan., and northern Illinois.  He also assists congregations which sponsor Bethesda group homes.



An honorary Doctor of Letters degree will be awarded to Alexander L. Napolitano, executive director of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, at the Dec. 18 graduation ceremony of Concordia University Wisconsin in Mequon.  The degree recognizes his leadership in the health care field and his service as head of one of the largest Lutheran ministries to people with mental retardation in the U.S.  Napolitano has been executive director of Bethesda since February 1975.  A board member of the Wisconsin Association of Nursing Homes and M& I Bank of Watertown, he is a certified health care executive and has served on the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation.  He is listed in “Who’s Who in the Midwest.”



06 07       1994 EMPLOYEE OF THE YEAR

For her ability to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes" and to "see things from resident, management and co-worker perspectives," residential aide Marion Welch, of Lowell, has been named 1994 Employee of the Year for Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. The announcement was made by Executive Director Dr. A.L. Napolitano, who noted that Welch has made a strong contribution to improving the quality of life for people with mental retardation. Welch, who has worked at Bethesda since August 1981, was chosen from a field of 18 strong candidates, all nominated by their peers, said Napolitano.  According to her nomination papers, Welch never fails to put first the needs of those she serves. "She is full of energy and always does extra special things for the residents."



A series of disability-simulation exercises and the latest additions to a summer camp for people with mental retardation will be dedicated Saturday at the Watertown campus of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc.  According to Dr. A. L. Napolitano, the executive director of Bethesda, both Camp Matz and the Discovery Center, which provides hands-on experiences in what it’s like to have a disability, will be open for tours beginning at 2:30 p.m. and tours will also be available after the service until 4:30 p.m.  Every summer, dozens of teen-agers from around the country come to Camp Matz.  During their volunteer week they help residents with nature walks, crafts, sporting activities, Bible studies, and many other projects associated with camp.




Skeletal remains of a body found on property owned by Bethesda Lutheran Home have been determined to be an archaeological find, officials said late this morning.  A skull and other remains were found on Bethesda property Wednesday afternoon by Jim Frey of Watertown, Bethesda grounds superintendent.  The remains were found in some brush below a tree line.  Police Inspector Larry Sukow said late this morning that some of the finds were transported to Madison by the state crime lab where they were examined by experts with the University of Wisconsin.  He said, “Their determination was that this is not a crime scene but rather an archaeological find.”    WDT



Dr. Alexander L. Napolitano, executive director at Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. for the past 23 years, will retire at the end of the year.  Napolitano, chief executive officer of one of the nation's largest providers to people with mental retardation, will retire on Jan. 1, 1998.  Served as executive director since Feb. 1, 1975.  During Napolitano's tenure, Bethesda has grown from the Watertown campus and two local group homes to 39 Bethesda-owned facilities, nine supported apartments and four service offices in 11 states.    WDT


12 14       DR. F. DAVID GESKE has been named executive director   WDT




His desk is covered, end to end, with small piles of paper.  Forms, memos, letters. It’s the culmination of a 23-year career, one that will end today.  Alexander Napolitano has served as executive director of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services for more than two decades, ushering in changes in the care of mentally retarded children and adults.  Through evolving theories of housing and education, Napolitano has been at the helm of Bethesda.  He has no specific plans for his retirement, he said, adding that he and his wife, Ginny, hope to relax, travel and volunteer.  It’s been a long time since he’s been able to fill his days with business other than that relating to Bethesda.  Napolitano came to Bethesda in 1975 after a period as director of a Racine County institution.  Before that, he was employed in the same field in Milwaukee.


09 18       Dr. Alexander Napolitano honored, administration building named after    WDT


11 18       Watertown Community Child Care move to Bethesda; conditional use permit approved   WDT



08 24       Restructuring; seven living areas headed by program directors


09 02       Harvey Krueger, volunteer   WDT


11 17       September Bethesda Country Fair, $160,000 check   WDT



05 22       Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services has announced Ixonia resident Roberta Neitzel has been selected as its Employee of the Year for the North Central Region.  A residential aide at Bethesda's Watertown campus, Neitzel exemplifies the ideal employee, according to Debborah Zubke, administrator of the North Central Region.  "Roberta is a wonderful, caring person who puts the needs of the people she serves first.  Her positive attitude shows in everything she does, from her quick smile and easy laughter to the way she treats all others she comes in contact with," Zubke said.  "She is a hard worker and is respected and valued by all of her co-workers." WDT


08 28       Open house scheduled to celebrate the completion of two new homes for clients who live at the Eickstaedt Home. The open house is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.  The two homes are located at 1621 and 1633 Carlson Place.  The homes offer clients the opportunity to live in a more community-based setting than the Eickstaedt Home, which is adjacent to the grounds of Bethesda's Watertown campus.   WDT


12 29       Bethesda is planning a $7 million to $10 million construction project at its Watertown campus to be completed by 2004, the year the organization turns 100 years old.  The Dierker buildings on the campus' southwest side will be remodeled in the first phase of Bethesda's long-term master plan.  The plan contains projects intended to create a more residential environment and less institutional-looking campus.  A new building will be constructed adjacent to the Dierker buildings and is part of the $7 million to $10 million project to begin in June next year.  The addition of an entry way on one of the Dierker buildings also is included.    WDT



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Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc. was given the OK by the Watertown Plan Commission to renovate residential buildings and build a new corporate headquarters on its campus.  Bethesda, 700 Hoffmann Drive, will renovate the four Dierker buildings on the campus’ southwest side in the first phase of its long-term master plan.  Bethesda officials have said the plan contains projects intended to create a more residential environment and less institutional-looking campus.  The buildings for residential living will be remodeled to provide a more residential setting and offer increased living space for residents. In the renovated buildings, 120 single rooms will be offered.  A dining and kitchen area will be built on each floor of each building.




Approximately 300 people attended the groundbreaking ceremonies Sunday afternoon at Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc., making way for the future.  People came as far away as Texas, said Dr. David Geske, chief executive officer at Bethesda.  Bethesda was given the go-ahead by the Watertown Plan Commission in June to renovate existing residential buildings, construct a new corporate office on the campus, as well as renovate other structures.  The project will total about $46 million.  Included in the first phase of the project will be renovation of the Dierker residential building.  The new residential living areas will provide a more homelike environment for the clients, who will have their own private room.  Dining and kitchen areas will be built on each floor.    WDT



The new Watertown Day Services building open in December 2002, a short distance away from the Bethesda campus.  The open house for the new facility was held on February 5, 2003.



-- --           SUMMER FUN AT CAMP MATZ!

Each year, hundreds of children and adults travel from all across the country to visit Camp Matz - a very special campground nestled inside a beautifully wooded area on the grounds of Bethesda’s North Central Campus in Watertown.  Camp Matz is one of a handful of camps that is designed specifically to help people with developmental disabilities enjoy the outdoors.  It is fully accessible, including its sandboxes, swings and nature trails.


Camp Matz also takes Bethesda’s mission, to provide the highest-quality, Christ-centered services for people with developmental disabilities, to heart by offering an outdoor chapel that gives campers the opportunity to worship in God’s wonderful creation.  It’s an opportunity to share Christian fellowship with fellow campers and make each day a new celebration of life.


Church groups, youth groups and families travel to Camp Matz every summer as part of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod Servant Event program to enjoy a week full of fun, summer activities with people with developmental disabilities.


This year, 34 groups from 12 different states made their way to Camp Matz for a week of summer fun.  There was plenty of warm weather to greet the campers over the 12 one-week summer camp sessions, and both volunteers and campers made the most of their time together at Camp Matz.


-- --           Renovations to the Watertown Campus’ Dierker D-First and D-Ground living areas were completed at the end of March, and people began moving into these areas in the beginning of April. The next living areas to be renovated are Dierker C-First, C-Ground and E-First.  The new program building is moving along on schedule.  The roof, the floors, and most of the outside work is complete.


-- --           The Board of Directors has given their approval for the construction of a new Watertown Day Services building.  It is hoped to have this building completed by the end of August.


-- --           The home at 208 East Haven Drive in Watertown has been completed, and people moved in during April. Five people from the Watertown Campus moved into this home, as well as one person from the community.


-- --           POOL OF BETHESDA AWARD:  Alexander Napolitano

The Pool of Bethesda award is presented annually to recognize an individual who has made national or international contributions of service and leadership in the field of developmental disabilities.


The 2001 Pool of Bethesda Award recipient, Alexander Napolitano, dedicated his career to the field of developmental disabilities services. For nearly 23 years, he served as Bethesda’s executive director.


During his tenure, Bethesda expanded from its original Watertown Campus and two group homes to include 39 facilities, nine supported living apartments and four service offices in 11 states. He established Bethesda’s first independent apartment living arrangements, expanded the number of group homes, and initiated the respite and day services programs. He was instrumental in the establishment of Camp Matz, and in the establishment of the NCRC.  In 1993, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Concordia University. Alexander Napolitano has served as a member of the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation and has been an outspoken supporter of expanded Medicaid funding for people who have developmental disabilities.



Bethesda’s Christian Service Award for Professionals is presented to recognize Lutherans who devote their professional time, talents and energy to helping people who have developmental disabilities at the local, state, or denominational levels.


This year’s recipient, Marlys Taege-Moberg, is a 1950 Cum Laude graduate of the Marquette University School of Journalism. She became Bethesda’s Director of Public Relations in 1974, Development Director in 1980, and was promoted to Corporate Affairs Administrator in 1986.


An accomplished author, Moberg has published several books, including: Why are They So Happy?, Wings, and God Gave Women Talents. In 1994, she received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Concordia University - Wisconsin, and was Concordia Century Club’s Keyperson of the Year in 1986.


Currently, as Executive Director of the Christian Council on Persons with Disabilities, Moberg advocates for individuals, organizations and congregations to take an evangelical perspective regarding persons with disabilities.




The new Bethesda Day Services building at 761 Milford St. is a visual sign that Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services is fulfilling its mission of integrating people with developmental disabilities into the flow of the community.  The Day Services building serves clients by offering a training and teaching type of setting, according to Jan Zwart, Bethesda’s community services administrator for the state of Wisconsin, who added, “It’s not an adult day care program.”  The Day Services program in Watertown has been moved into its own building to give the program its own identity as an outreach program.  Life skills training and vocational development are offered to help developmentally disabled adults become more independent.    WDT




A check for $145,000 was presented Wednesday by the volunteers of the Bethesda Country Store at Horicon to the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown.  Accepting the donation was Dr. David Geske, chief executive officer at Bethesda, who said the funds will go directly to Bethesda’s Watertown campus to pay for projects that directly benefit the 250 residents there.  The particular projects the funds will pay for will be selected from Bethesda’s wish list by the board members of the country fair.  Last year the group presented a check for $155,000 to Bethesda and in 2001 the organization raised the same amount as this year, $145,000.   WDT


2004      100th ANNIVERSARY YEAR

The ongoing remodeling of the campus has not only enhanced its appearance, but dramatically improved the efficiency of work and, most importantly, improved the quality of life for those supported.


Ohio Parish Ministry Consultant Norma Neuhart moved to Watertown to fill the music coordinator/chaplaincy representative position that had been vacant for some month.



Bethesda’s Corporate Center, located on the grounds of the Watertown campus, was completed, providing an efficient, central location for over 100 members of the corporate staff.



On February 15, the Watertown Chamber of Commerce named Bethesda its "Business of the Year" in its Service/Professional category.  This award is given to a business whose operations have "contributed significantly to the enhancement of the Greater Watertown area marketplace."  North Central Region Administrator Debbie Zubke remarked that it was especially pleasing to receive this honor the same year Bethesda celebrates its 100th anniversary.


04 09       GESKE ELECTED TO THE BOARD of Lutheran Services in America

David Geske, president and CEO of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc., has been elected to the board of directors of Lutheran Services in America. This is not only a personal honor but it also reflects the admiration and respect of (Lutheran Services) members for the mission of Bethesda, Geske said.  Geske has headed up Bethesda since 1998. He also serves on the executive council of IMPACT, an international alliance of service agencies that provides financial aid, services and advocacy for individuals with disabilities in Eastern Europe and the Dominican Republic.   WDT




Bethesda's Camp Matz became an even more unique camping experience this summer with the construction of a wheelchair-accessible treehouse on its grounds.  The treehouse itself is the first of its kind in the Midwest, with room to hold 10-15 people in wheelchairs plus staff.  It features 400 square feet of area with a 200-foot ramp leading up to the treehouse.  The ramp zigzags through the trees and provides places to rest on the way up or down.  Campers at Camp Matz will be able to use the treehouse to enjoy various activities and even experience overnight camping under the stars.




Bethesda Messenger, Autumn 2004 (full article, pdf file)   


With its paved hiking trails through beautiful wooded areas, an outdoor chapel area, and the ability for youth groups from around the nation to spend a week getting to know individuals with developmental disabilities, Camp Matz on Bethesda’s Watertown campus has been a summer attraction for over 35 years.  But this summer, Camp Matz became even more unique with the construction of a wheelchair-accessible treehouse on its grounds.


The treehouse was officially dedicated on Aug. 14, as a part of Bethesda's Watertown Campus 100th anniversary celebration.



Bethesda received the conditional use permit for the new Day Services building in Watertown.  Bethesda has finalized the plans and construction began during the first week of July.  The building itself should be completed by December.  Bethesda purchased four lots on Wakoka Street in Watertown, Wis., on which the organization intends to build two duplexes and a six-person group home.



A group of students at Webster Elementary School learned more than academics during a recent overnight camping trip at Watertown's Camp Matz.  The camp, located on the grounds of Bethesda Lutheran Homes, was an opportunity for teacher Pam Vonderohe's fifth-grade students to learn about cooperation and teamwork.  Vonderohe and her 12 pupils took part in outdoor projects, many including aspects of their American Indian social studies curriculum.  “Part of it is to do something out of the ordinary with them,” said Vonderohe, who has taken three classes on the outdoor adventure.  “We get away from the daily grind and enjoy each other’s company away from school.”   WDT




Today, Bethesda's progressive nature continues with the opening of the Frontier Mental Health Clinic in Watertown, a clinic designed specifically to serve people with a dual diagnosis of a developmental disability and a mental illness.  Due to the efforts in Wisconsin toward community integration, the clinic was deemed important by Bethesda to improve the mental health services available to individuals with developmental disabilities who have this dual diagnosis and who live in the community.


Services provided by the clinic include counseling, behavior analysis and treatment, functional skills assessment and training for replacement behavior, intellectual testing, adaptive testing and psychiatric services.




    by Henry John Yeend King 

During the razing of the Ritter building an oil painting was identified as a work of Henry John Yeend King.



Volunteers who are currently organizing the 53rd annual Bethesda Country Fair had an opportunity to see how the funds they raised at last year’s fair were used on the campus of the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown. Last year’s fair resulted in a donation of $152,000 and much of that donation was used to construct a tree house that is 14 feet high and includes a ramp that is more than 200 feet long. It is a part of Camp Matz on the Bethesda campus and is the first of its kind in the Midwest. It has room for 10 to 15 people in wheelchairs and the staff working with them. The tree house is a part of a camp that includes cabins with room for 42 campers and staff to provide one-on-one assistance.   WDT



Good Shepherd Communities, based in California has reached an agreement in a letter of intent to merge with Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services, Inc., headquartered in Watertown.  The move will dramatically increase the number of people supported by Bethesda.  Good Shepherd Communities is a Lutheran agency similar to Bethesda in terms of mission and philosophy.  The histories of the two agencies have been intertwined since Good Shepherd’s inception.   WDT






Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services has announced the expansion of the organization to several western states through the addition of Good Shepherd Communities (GSC), headquartered in Orange County, Calif.  The expansion comes a year after the two companies reached an agreement to merge through a letter of intent in September 2005.


09 02       45 YEARS OF SERVICE

Bethesda honored Dave Tietz Tuesday for his 45 years of service to the organization.  Watertown Mayor John David attended the special luncheon held at Dave Tietz Day corporate center in honor of Tietz, and proclaimed Tuesday to be “Dave Tietz Day” in the city of Watertown.  In bestowing the honor, David commended Tietz for his service to Bethesda and the individuals with developmental disabilities who receive services and supports from Bethesda.



The Watertown campus of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services will serve fewer people by the end of the year, officials of the facility announced on Friday.  Bethesda officials made the announcement as part of an overall change in its structure and scope of services in Wisconsin.  At a meeting of Bethesda staff this week, Debborah Zubke, Bethesda’s North Central Region administrator, announced plans to reduce the population of individuals served on the 700 Hoffmann Drive campus from its present census of 175 to 150 by the end of the year.  Zubke said if the people affected by the move so desire, they will continue to be served by Bethesda, many in group homes located in Watertown.




Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. honored its volunteers during a recent luncheon.  Recognized for serving the campus 30 or more years were Mildred Hildebrandt, Eunice Ott, Alice Rahn, Ken Holzhueter, Welthy Mueller and Dorothy Gartzke.  Rahn also received the Behnken Honors Award for her 38 years of volunteering in various departments at the home.



The Community Job Placement Program based out of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services’ Watertown campus has placed four individuals with developmental disabilities in jobs that benefit them socially, educationally and financially.  The goal of this program is to place people with developmental disabilities in positions they will eventually have the ability to perform independently.  Bethesda differs from most providers in this area because this program imposes no finite end date in regard to the support of a job coach, according to Nick Honeck, creative services specialist for Bethesda.  He added the job coach also works with other employees, empowering them to work best with a co-worker with developmental disabilities.



Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. in Watertown honored the organization’s corporate staff earlier this month and named systems programmer analyst Al Zielke the 2007 Corporate Employee of the Year.  “What distinguishes Al is his commitment and the Herculean effort he puts into his job,” said Brian Tennant, chief information officer.  “Everybody’s really working hard,” Zielke said.  “I don’t feel like I’m doing anymore than anyone else.”  The daylong festivities began with a social gathering, where employees mingled and enjoyed coffee and doughnuts.  Rev. Earl Bleke, chief religious life officer, began the celebration with a special address and prayer.



Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. in Watertown recently honored Chaplain Michael Schempf for 25 years of serving in the ministry during a special chapel service.  Schempf’s primary goal over the years has been to provide ongoing spiritual support to those who live at Bethesda.  Schempf leads worship services three days a week and provides confirmation instruction, Bible studies on the main campus and group home Bible studies in the community.  He also helps introduce Bethesda’s mission to new staff and meets with families when they initially bring loved ones to Bethesda.



HORICON — Volunteers with the Bethesda Country Fair, following an appreciation luncheon in their honor on Wednesday at Horicon, voted to discontinue the annual Country Fair at the Dodge County Fairgrounds. With an aging volunteer group and a growing Bethesda Country Fair, volunteers have been expressing concern about their ability to continue to haul goods and equipment to the fairgrounds and put in the long hours that it takes to run the annual sale. Bethesda Country Fair began more than 55 years ago as a fund-raiser for the Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Beaver Dam. Since 1973, funds were directed to Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown.   WDT




Firefighters battled a blaze today outside of a day services building at Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. that was caused by a damaged gas line.  The Watertown Fire Department received the call for the fire at the Bethesda building, 761 Milford St., today at 6:42 a.m.  Firefighters had the blaze under control at 6:55 a.m. and completely out at 7:14 a.m.  The fire occurred outside of the building and was caused by a cracked valve on a gas line.  Fire started when the gas came in contact with an ignition source in an air handling unit.  The building sustained minor smoke damage.



Dave Tietz, an employee at Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc., has retired after 46 years of service with the company.  “It’s been great having Dave work here,” said Dr. David Geske, chief executive officer of Bethesda.  “I suspect his level of commitment and loyalty isn’t something many organizations see very often.”  Tietz worked at Bethesda’s print shop, which prints the company’s publications and mailings.  The shop has also started printing outside jobs as well.



The board of directors at Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. has named Dr. John E. Bauer as the president and chief executive officer of the company.  Bauer replaces Dr. David Geske, who recently retired after a nearly 30-year career with Bethesda and Good Shepherd Communities.  Following the affiliation of Good Shepherd Communities with Bethesda in 2006, Bauer served as integration manager at Bethesda and was responsible for overseeing the details of the affiliation and ensuring the adoption of the best practices from both organizations.



Bethesda’s Retail Thrift Shop in Watertown will soon undergo a major remodeling project, according to Dr. John E. Bauer, president and chief executive officer of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc.  Plans are under way to remodel the entire store, which will include moving the current gift shop from the main campus to the front of the thrift store.  Additionally, the thrift store will be adding a new color scheme, as well as new shelving and racking systems.  Store hours are also expected to expand, although those details have not yet been disclosed.



Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services Inc. recently honored its employees and individuals who have made significant contributions to the field of developmental disabilities during its annual banquet held at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee.  Dr. David Geske, former president and CEO of Bethesda, received the Pool of Bethesda Award, which recognizes an individual who has made national or international contributions of service and leadership in the field of developmental disabilities.  The award also recognizes those who have made accomplishments that positively impact the lives of people who have developmental disabilities.  Geske’s career with Bethesda spanned more than 40 years.  During this time, he served as Bethesda’s director of social services and assistant executive director before becoming CEO of Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West, which later became affiliated with Bethesda.



03 05       Bethesda Fire Pit Project   WDT



Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services has merged with Good Shepherd Communities.  The decision was reached at a special meeting of Bethesda’s membership on Saturday.  Good Shepherd, which operates in four western states, has been a wholly controlled subsidiary of Bethesda since 2006.  The combined organizations have 3,000 employees and an annual operating budget of $155 million.  The merger will be effective Sept. 1 and will result in a single corporation with a new name, Bethesda Lutheran Communities.  Good Shepherd has been tied to Bethesda since its founding.


In 1949, a family traveled from California to Watertown to inquire about placing their son on a waiting list for admission to Bethesda.  Unable to meet their son’s needs, Bethesda provided consultation and funding assistance to establish Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West, later known as Good Shepherd Communities.



Watertown resident Dennis Vanden Heuvel has been hired to Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services development department where he serves as a major gift planner.  Vanden Heuvel’s responsibilities include working with Bethesda friends, donors and supporters who have an interest in the organization’s ministry.  Vanden Heuvel will work in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois in order to share Bethesda’s successes and discuss the lives impacted by the organization’s ministry while also encouraging the generous support of Bethesda’s work.



          Merger of Bethesda and Good Shepherd Communities


Dr. John E. Bauer, president and CEO of Bethesda, speaks to employees this morning as the organization celebrates the change in its name to Bethesda Lutheran Communities.


Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services began business today as Bethesda Lutheran Communities.  The change is the product of the full and complete merger of Bethesda and Good Shepherd Communities as well as a yearlong branding and identity study.


Good Shepherd Communities, which operated in four western states, had been a wholly controlled subsidiary of Bethesda since 2006.  The merger and related name change were approved at a special meeting of Bethesda's membership in May and became effective today.  Good Shepherd has been tied to Bethesda since its founding in 1949, however.  A family traveled from California to Watertown to inquire about placing their son on a waiting list for admission to Bethesda.  Unable to meet their son's needs, Bethesda provided consultation and funding assistance to establish Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West, later known as Good Shepherd Communities.


“The words ‘Bethesda' and ‘Lutheran' were simply deemed to be core to our identity,” says Dr. John E. Bauer, president and CEO of Bethesda. “‘Communities' is a natural choice not only because of the Good Shepherd Communities legacy, but because it accurately describes our ministry.  Our work is found in neighborhood communities around the country and we work to build up faith communities that welcome and nurture spiritual lives.”


Originally founded in Watertown in 1904, the name Bethesda did not appear until 1924.  It existed as Bethesda Lutheran Home until 1992 when the name was changed to Bethesda Lutheran Homes and Services.  Today, the newly merged organization of Bethesda Lutheran Communities has 3,000 employees and an annual operating budget of $149 million.  Bethesda's corporate headquarters will remain in Watertown.


Now in its second century, Bethesda provides services to 2,000 individuals with developmental disabilities throughout the country.  Together with partner agencies, they also provide support in numerous international locations including Romania, Latvia, Russia, Kenya, Tanzania, Kazakhstan and the Dominican Republic.



05 15       Dr. John E. Bauer, president and CEO, elected to board of Lutheran Services in America (LSA)   WDT



02 03       Watertown Challenge Assn triathlon to benefit Bethesda Lutheran Community Services   WDT


08 27       Rebecca Kleefisch tours Bethesda   WDT




The Bethesda Intermediate Care Facility will close Aug. 31, 2014.  The decision, made by the Bethesda Lutheran Communities Board of Directors, was announced by John E. Bauer, Ph.D., president and CEO of Bethesda, on Tuesday, June 18.


Seventy-three people with intellectual and developmental disabilities currently live at the Watertown Intermediate Care Facility (ICF). The state of Wisconsin will oversee the transition plan that will include representatives of Bethesda. This transition team will support people and their families and guardians to find homes that meet their needs and preferences in the community. If people supported at the facility desire to have Bethesda continue to provide supports for them, Bethesda will provide options that include adult family homes, apartments and duplexes in the area.


Relocation meetings will begin in July 2013 and continue until all people currently living at the Watertown ICF have transitioned to their new homes. Meetings, organized by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, will include managed care organizations, representatives from Disability Rights Wisconsin, the Ombudsman Program, Aging and Disability Resource Centers and Bethesda.


Since 1904, Bethesda has been committed to providing opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities so they may live more independent and fulfilling lives in their communities.


“The transitioning of people from Bethesda’s Watertown ICF into community homes is the culmination of 40 years of efforts to enhance lives through community integrated services,” Bauer said. “Bethesda’s ministry is defined by its dedicated employees, not buildings. Bethesda’s person-centered, community-based mission is central to everything we do. We hope people will continue their trusted relationship with Bethesda in a community home that best meets their needs. The Bethesda promise to support the choices of people with developmental disabilities drives how we collaborate with individuals to reach their residential, vocational and spiritual goals.”


Bethesda’s state-certified ICF provides 24-hour nursing supports, comprehensive health care and rehabilitation services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more than 20 years the Wisconsin Department of Health Services has assisted counties in relocating individuals with developmental disabilities from ICFs into the community.


As part of the transition, each person supported in Bethesda’s Watertown ICF will be provided with options, including counseling by their local Aging and Disability Resource Center. Bethesda will assist in all aspects related to this person-centered planning process. Residential options will be determined by each person individually, with assistance from families or guardians where necessary. For people who choose to continue with Bethesda as their provider, ICF staff will be offered the option to work with them in their community homes. Bethesda’s ministry consultants will provide people with spiritual supports during and after the transition process regardless of which service provider they choose.


“As Bethesda has decreased the number of people supported at the Watertown ICF over the years, dedicated employees have made the transition with people as they’ve moved to integrated homes in communities throughout Wisconsin,” said Gretchen Block, regional director of Bethesda’s North Central region. “Change can be stressful, but when you have people who care about you right there to support you, it makes all the difference in the world.”


Bethesda will assist people supported at the Watertown ICF and their families through every step of their transition into the community.


“This process isn’t new to Bethesda; we’ve supported hundreds of people over the years to find homes closer to family, while better connecting individuals to community resources and neighbors,” Block said. “We are excited to support people while they take this next step in their lives. People will find living in a house or apartment in a neighborhood to be satisfying. It’s the kind of life every person deserves.” Residential alternatives will be explored by Bethesda in response to how many people choose Bethesda as their provider. Community-based options offered by Bethesda may include adult family homes, apartments and duplexes. Bethesda has 24-hour and intermittent residential supports in community homes, all with on-call nursing assistance.


In 2010, 25 people transitioned out of the Watertown ICF into Wisconsin community settings. Seventeen people selected Bethesda as their provider. Currently, Bethesda provides nearly 1,800 people with community-based residential services and employment and community life programs, as well as almost 5,000 people with spiritual support in 13 states.


Fall           THRIFT SHOPS  (5-page article)

Fall 2013 Messenger article  


Winter     CAMP MATZ (4-page article)

Winter 2013-14 Messenger article  




Bethesda Lutheran Communities Tuesday afternoon broke ground on a $6 million residential project that will result in the construction of two duplexes and five community-based residential facilities.  When completed, the nine new residences will become home to most of the 60 men and women with intellectual and developmental disabilities who currently reside at Bethesda's Intermediate Care Facility at 700 Hoffmann Drive in Watertown.  Bethesda announced in July 2013 that it reached an agreement with the state of Wisconsin to transition those men and women into community-based settings, where they will be able to continue pursuing lives of increased choice and independence.  Construction of the seven residences will be completed as early as November.  Bethesda will transition the men and women from its Watertown intermediate care facility into their new homes as construction of each residence is completed.   WDT




Because he grew up near the Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, Meinhardt Rabbe was familiar with their work in supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  And because he experienced discrimination and prejudice based on his appearance and perceived abilities, like many of the people Bethesda supported, he gave to the institution with an open hand and an open heart.  Blessed by his career in show business, Meinhardt donated more than $3.5 million to Bethesda through estate gifts and legacy donations before he passed away in 2010.  In summer 2015, his estate donated another $1 million to Bethesda.  2014-2015 Bethesda Annual Report




The Bethesda Lutheran Communities Board of Directors, in a unanimous decision, has appointed Mike Thirtle, Ph.D., as Bethesda's new President and Chief Executive Officer.  Thirtle joined Bethesda in September 2013 as Vice President for Strategy and Information Services and was later named Executive Vice President.  He has served as Bethesda’s Interim President and CEO since September 2014 following the retirement of Bethesda’s previous President and CEO, John E. Bauer, Ph.D.


In his first executive action as Bethesda's President and CEO, Thirtle named Jeff Kaczmarski as Bethesda's Executive Vice President. Kaczmarski has served as Bethesda's Interim Executive Vice President since September, and has also served as Vice President of Legal Affairs since joining Bethesda in 1993.


Before joining Bethesda, Thirtle worked for the RAND Corporation in various roles for 12 years, including as director of the RAND office at Air Combat Command at Langley Air Force Base, in Virginia. Prior to joining RAND, Thirtle was director of consulting for the National Data Corporation in Chicago, and a senior consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Los Angeles.  Thirtle’s academic credentials include a Ph.D. in Policy Analysis and a Master of Philosophy in Policy Analysis, both from the RAND Graduate School, an MBA in Finance and M.S. in Economics, both from Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.  Thirtle graduated with military distinction—in the top one percent of his class—from the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he earned a B.S. in Biology and minored in Spanish.


Prior to Bethesda, Kaczmarski worked as a business litigation attorney in Madison and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Kaczmarski has a law degree and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


In addition to organizational leadership changes, the Bethesda Lutheran Communities Board of Directors elected Dr. F. Paul Carlson as Board Chairman after Arvid Schwartz chose not to run for re-election.  Schwartz, who has served on the board since 2003, will remain on the board.  Carlson is the founder and owner of Carlson Group, LLC, which specializes in business re-structuring and financing.  He has also served on the boards of directors at Cascade Microtech and Tektronix, semiconductor test equipment manufacturers that are both based in Beaverton, Oregon; Frank Russell Trust Co., an investment advisory firm in Tacoma, Washington; and PacifiCorp, an electric power utility company based in Portland, Oregon.


The Bethesda Lutheran Communities Board also elected Dr. Virginia Miller and Dr. Roger Burtner as Vice-Chairman and Treasurer, respectively. Rev. Alan Bachert was re-elected as Secretary.


Jim Huebner and Duane Schlomer announced their retirements from the Bethesda Lutheran Foundation Board. The Bethesda Lutheran Foundation Board is responsible for oversight on Bethesda's endowment.




Bethesda has invested more than $6 million to construct the nine new homes to support the people transitioning from the Watertown Intermediate Care Facility into the community. Those nine homes include a pair of duplexes that were licensed by the state of Wisconsin as four adult family homes with each side of the duplex serving as its own adult family home, and five state-licensed community-based residential facilities. Bethesda began moving people from the Watertown main campus into their new community homes in early December 2014, as construction and licensure by the state of Wisconsin was completed.    WDTimes article  


07 05       NO RESIDENTS BUT A CAMPUS REMAINS   Wisconsin State Journal article  



      TODAY’S TMJ4


       TODAY’S TMJ4


On Saturday, September 12, Bethesda is celebrating the legacy of Meinhardt Raabe, a longtime donor and supporter of Bethesda, who played the Munchkin Coroner in the Original Wizard of Oz film, and served as Oscar Mayer’s spokesman “Little Oscar,” driving around the famous Weinermobile and making appearances for the company.



Meinhardt Raabe will be celebrated at Bethesda on Saturday.  The celebration will honor "The Wizard of Oz" actor who played the munchkin coroner and was known as Little Oscar the World's Smallest Chef.  He retired from that role in 1971.  Raabe, who was born in Watertown, died at the age of 94 in 2010 and is buried in Farmington.  Raabe was an avid supporter of Bethesda during his life. The event is timed to coincide with Raabe's 100th birthday, which would have been Sept. 2.  The celebration includes a picnic, hot air balloon rides for $10, an opportunity to see a collection of Meinhardt Raabe memorabilia, a scavenger hunt, a costume contest and a showing of "The Wizard of Oz."


-- --           BETHESDA COLLEGE

The Bethesda College of Applied Learning is how Bethesda connects people of all abilities who want and deserve to go to college.  Combining a liberal arts focus with skills development coursework, Bethesda College's curriculum is designed for students with developmental disabilities who are seeking to grow intellectually, vocationally, socially, personally and spiritually.


Bethesda College is currently offered through a joint effort between Bethesda and Concordia University Wisconsin (CUW) in Mequon, Wisconsin.  This partnership is a natural fit for the two organizations that share a century-long Lutheran heritage.  Bethesda College is the only postsecondary program in Wisconsin that blends the best practices of a nationwide service provider for people with developmental disabilities with the learning environment and resources of an accredited university.  Bethesda College's two-year curriculum centers on formal instruction in four areas: academics, career preparation, adult living skills and cam pus community life.  Students enrolled at Bethesda College live in a residence hall alongside other students at CUW.  Bethesda Messenger, Spring 2015




Bethesda Lutheran Communities has named Dave Griebl as new chief financial officer (CFO).  Griebl will lead and direct the organization’s finance team.  Griebl earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his MBA from Marquette University. Prior to coming to Bethesda, Griebl was a senior consultant at Patina Solutions and CFO at QPS Employment Group, both located in Brookfield.  Griebl replaces longtime Vice President of Administrative Services Jack Tobias, who is retiring this spring after 40 years of service to Bethesda.



Bethesda Lutheran Communities has announced Pam Ducklow as the new regional director for Wisconsin.  Ducklow was promoted from her role as area director for the Watertown area and will now oversee all seven of Wisconsin’s areas, which includes 62 programs supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One of her key roles in her new position will be to work with area directors and program managers to ensure the highest possible quality of care for the people Bethesda supports.   Ducklow succeeds Gretchen Block who was recently promoted to division operating officer for Bethesda’s Eastern Division.




In an effort to save money, Bethesda Lutheran Communities has begun transitioning its former residential campus into an efficiency state that will render its 10 buildings unavailable for lease.  The decision is expected to save Bethesda around $750,000 annually.  The buildings once served as elderly living facilities to a peak 660 residents in the 1960s.  As time went on, those under Bethesda's care were transitioned into community based services which support several smaller homes throughout the city.  The campus's last dozen residents vacated about two years ago leaving the cluster of buildings largely uninhabited.  The change will include all former resident buildings along with some office buildings that were part of the campus's support system.



Bethesda Lutheran Communities announced it would be razing 11 buildings that make up its former residential campus.  The decision from Bethesda comes after several years of trying to market nearly 350,000 square feet of buildings on the campus’s prime riverfront location.  The cost of utilities and maintenance for the largely unused buildings proved too excessive for the company.  It costs $1.4 million a year to keep the lights, heat and water on at the facility.  The demolition has displaced numerous tenants including Great Expectations Early Learning Center which leased space in one of the buildings on the campus for its entire 13-year existence.



Bethesda Lutheran Communities announced plans to sell about 30 of its group homes in Wisconsin to the Kentucky-based forprofit company ResCare.  The change is expected to take place on Oct. 7 and will leave Bethesda with 19 programs in the state.  No further reductions are currently planned in Wisconsin.  The focus in the future will rely less on operating group homes and more on expanding programs and services that foster independence and integration with the community.



Public Safety & Welfare Committee, October 4, 2017.  1. Review Demolition Permit Variance request from Bethesda Lutheran Communities.  Four variances were requested from the City’s permitting process.  City Engineer Holloway provided information regarding discussions with Bethesda and with the DNR, regarding this request.  Following discussion regarding Erosion Control and Storm Water fees and Inspection fees, motion was made and seconded to allow the Demolition Variance Permit as presented and recommend that it be forwarded for plan approval requirements, once inspection fees are received by the City.  This passed unanimously.   Council proceedings, 10 19 WDT



WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Bethesda Thrift Shop, which has operated in Rapids Mall since 2004, will close on Dec. 30.  The planned sale of the Rapids Mall to the John E. Alexander South Wood County YMCA and Boys & Girls Club of the Wisconsin Rapids Area prompted the closure.



Bethesda Lutheran Communities has elected two new members to its board of directors, Cesar Villalpando of Burbank, California, and Randall Odzer of Des Moines, Iowa.


Villalpando has spent his career in health care and most recently served as senior vice president, enterprise shared services, at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, where he held several executive and leadership positions during a nearly 30-year tenure.


A graduate of California State University, Villalpando holds a master’s degree in human factors and a bachelor’s degree in psychology.


Since 2008, Odzer has been chief financial officer for the Principal Financial Group in Des Moines. He also previously served as CFO at OptumHealth Care Solutions/United Behavioral Health and Cigna Behavioral Health.


Odzer earned his master of business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.


Bethesda’s board of directors also has recently elected new officers.


Dr. Virginia Miller became the first woman in the organization’s 114–year-history to be elected board chairman. She directs the Women’s Health Research Center at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.


Miller replaces retiring chairman F. Paul Carlson, who Bethesda thanks for his years of service to the organization as a board member and chairman.


Other new officers include Cathy Brondos, Haymarket, Virginia, vice chairman; Dr. Roger Burtner, Fullerton, California, treasurer; and Tiffany Manor, New Hartford, Connecticut, secretary.


11 14       BETHESDA IS LOVE

In the kickoff to Bethesda Lutheran Communities’ new campaign, “Bethesda is Love,” a time capsule opening ceremony occurred Friday afternoon in starting its next chapter and honoring Bethesda’s history.  Both copper box time capsules were recently discovered after the demolition of two chapels.  Several items unleashed Bethesda’s past, including photographs, Bibles, bulletins, German documents, hymnals and programs. The time capsules date back from 1936 and 1981.  A German Bible cover wore its markings on documents, showing its aging color after years of being sealed in the 1981 copper box.  Watertown Daily Times newspapers dated Dec. 6, 1980, and May 22, 1936, were both uncovered in the time capsule.



Bethesda Lutheran Communities Inc. currently is in the demolition process to raze 11 buildings, some more than 100 years old.  Bethesda’s board of directors made the decision for the redevelopment due to the high maintenance costs for buildings that remained unoccupied, serving no future use for the organization.  Once the building demolition is complete Bethesda will have cleared more than 200 acres of its 400-acre property in the hopes of selling the land to a developer.




        Footage taken January 14th, 2018 of the beginning stages of demolition for parts of the Bethesda Lutheran Communities campus

    Video clip   



    Video clip   



Phil and Kay Warren presented a $250,000 check to Bethesda Lutheran Communities from the estate of Hildegarde “Hildey” Herfurth, 1923-2016.  The donation will be used to support Bethesda’s mission to provide homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.



Public Works Commission:  Prairie Restoration permit application for Bethesda Lutheran Communities at 700 Hoffman Drive.  Interim Street Superintendent Franks explained Bethesda would like to turn 12 acres, which previously had buildings, into a prairie until it is redeveloped.  Motion carried to grant this permit and review in three years for a possible burn if needed.



The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability recently announced the accreditation of Bethesda.  The accreditation is based on the ECFA Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship, including financial accountability, transparency, sound board governance and ethical fundraising.  Bethesda joins a growing number of Christ-centered churches and ministries across America, supported by over 27 million donors that have earned the right to display the ECFA seal. When an organization is accredited by ECFA, it demonstrates its willingness to follow the model of biblical accountability.



Bethesda has named Juli Frank its vice president of retail to lead the organization’s 16 thrift shops and donation centers in seven states.  In her new role at Bethesda, Frank brings a history of leadership in retail management, market solutions, including new stores and remodels, inventory management, merchandise optimization and central planning, a news release said.  Frank earned an MBA from the University of Wisconsin- Madison and a bachelor’s degree in retail merchandising from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.



The Bethesda Lutheran Communities’ Board of Directors elected a new slate of officers to serve on its executive committee.




The Bethesda Thrift Store, 201 Cottage Grove Rd., will close by the end of June but the organization's 15 other stores in seven states will remain open.



Barb Silver-Thorn, technologist with Bethesda, has earned the assistive technology professional certification by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. This certification will create opportunities to put technology to work to enhance the lives of people Bethesda supports.  An assistive technology professional analyzes the needs of individuals with disabilities, assists in the selection of the appropriate equipment and trains the consumer on how to properly use the specific equipment.  Silver-Thorn will use the knowledge learned through the credentialing to support assistive technology integration throughout the organization. Her work includes the assessment of people supported to determine how and what technology can further enhance independence and inclusion -- ultimately changing the way care, support and services are delivered.


02 26       xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Bethesda has named Lorene King as its new vice president of philanthropy.  As a key member of the executive leadership team, King is responsible for executing a comprehensive plan to support all aspects of philanthropic giving.         WDTimes article   



Bethesda employee and volunteer Naomi Neuberger was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award, bronze level, which recognizes citizens who live a life of service through presidential gratitude and national recognition.  Neuberger received the award by giving over 100 hours of her time over the past several years to help people supported by Bethesda.


Working with her congregation, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Watertown, Neuberger was a key partner for Bethesda’s production of Night to Shine, a prom for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  For two years, she planned and coordinated all of the volunteers for a pre-prom formal wear event in which prom-goers could get outfitted for the dance.  The event was hosted at Good Shepherd where she also mobilized congregants and friends to bake cookies and volunteer at Night to Shine.


In addition to supporting Night to Shine, Neuberger and the Rev. David Groth, who is also a supporter of Bethesda, have been instrumental in motivating the congregation at Good Shepherd with local needs.  Neuberger knows all of the people supported by Bethesda in the area, having served them professionally as a Bethesda employee for over 25 years.


Neuberger continues to advocate for many people supported by Bethesda as a case manager for Care Wisconsin. She’s also involved in the Lutheran Women’s Mission League and helps people supported by Bethesda feel welcome at church.  Along with the ultimate honor of presidential recognition, Neuberger received a personalized certificate, an official pin and a congratulatory letter from the president of the United States.



Sneddon brings more than 15 years of operations experience to his new role, having worked with a variety of human services and health care organizations in various markets throughout the U.S.  Most recently, he served as Divisional Vice President of Operations for Five Star Senior Living, where he oversaw all operations for 66 facilities in 11 states, a division with $350 million in annual revenue.  Sneddon has also held leadership roles with VIVAGE, Managcare, HCR-Manorcare, Plum Healthcare and the Ensign Group.


Sneddon earned his master’s degree from the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia and his bachelor’s degree in sociology with a communication minor from Brigham Young University. He will be based in the Denver, Colorado area.



Bethesda has named Brian Savoie as its new vice president of finance.  As a member of the executive leadership team, Savoie is responsible for the finance and accounting functions within Bethesda.  Savoie most recently served as chief financial officer for the American Society for Quality (ASQ) in Milwaukee, where he led the finance, accounting, information technology, organizational excellence and office services work groups at the 70,000-member nonprofit professional society.  He also held finance leadership positions at VF Corporation, in Appleton. Brady Corporation in Milwaukee, and Nike, Inc. in Beaverton, Ore.  Savoie earned his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the Milwaukee School of Engineering.  He earned and his MBA from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.



As a member of the executive leadership team, Chang is responsible for all aspects of quality and training within Bethesda and for developing programs to further enhance the quality of supports Bethesda provides.  Most recently, Chang served as the assistant commissioner of primary care access and planning for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, one of the world’s largest health organizations.  Chang earned her doctorate and master of public administration from Ohio State University.  She completed her undergraduate degree at the National Chung Hsing University of Taichung, Taiwan.



The Bethesda Board of Directors has elected Cesar Villalpando the new chairman of the board, succeeding Dr. Virginia Miller, who has stepped off the board after nine years of service.  In addition, three officers on the executive committee – the Rev. Jay DeBeir, Randall Odzer and Catherine Brondos – were re-elected to their roles, and a new director, Jim Rymarcsuk, has joined the board.  Each leader brings expertise and a shared commitment to Bethesda’s mission.




The Watertown Common Council approved a resolution to purchase 172 acres of land for $1.9 million from Bethesda Lutheran of Watertown near the city’s wastewater utility for possible future expansion of the plant.  The wastewater utility determined that the acquisition of this real estate would serve to help with future wastewater treatment discharge permit limits and potential future wastewater utility operation needs that have yet to be determined.



Sri Nagarajan has joined Bethesda as chief technology and innovation officer.  Nagarajan earned a master’s degree in information management from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh; an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.; and a master’s degree in financial management from Pondicherry University in India. His bachelor’s degree in commerce is from the University of Madras, also in India.



       Once-mighty Bethesda presence fades even more


Citing the fact that its revenue streams are drying up due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bethesda is closing its group homes, day programs and employment services in Watertown and Wisconsin.  Its corporate office will remain in Watertown, albeit with staff reductions.


"Providing the very highest quality living and program services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has always been challenging, given we experience financial loss due to the low level of Medicaid reimbursement," Don Klein, senior director of public affairs, said.  According to Klein, COVID-19 and the resulting economic downturn have made things much worse for Bethesda.


"But they are necessary for us to thrive in the future and move forward with our vision to be the innovator for our industry," he said.  "We are committed to providing new and innovative services including Behavioral Health, Financial Services, Independent Living, Transition Services and Employment Services, and putting smart technology to work.  These services have the potential to transform the lives of the 6.5 million people in the U.S. who have an intellectual and developmental disability.  We look forward to helping more people achieve the brighter future they deserve."



In light of closing selected facilities [ pdf file ]



     < Link to website 

September 24, 2020, the grand opening of Bethesda Cornerstone Village in Victoria, MN.  Including seniors 55+ and independent adults with developmental disabilities, this groundbreaking residential community will further the cause of independence, inclusion and community—today and for years to come.



Shorewood's apartment development proposed


An apartment development that would provide a mix of affordable and market-rate units is being considered for a site that includes SunSeekers, a tanning salon at 2420 E. Capitol Drive.


That building would be demolished, with its lot used for the new apartment development.


It would include affordable apartments set aside for adults with developmental disabilities who are able to live independently, Ewald said.


Watertown-based Bethesda Lutheran Communities, which provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, would be involved in the project.


Bethesda would co-develop the building, tentatively planned for 52 apartments, with Catalyst Construction, said Tom Campbell, Bethesda vice president of real estate.  Up to 25% of those apartments would be set aside for people with disabilities, he said.  "It's an inclusive housing model.  They need quality housing, and they need it at a low cost."              Source:  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10 23, 2020




Two housing developments that include apartments set aside for adults with developmental disabilities are in the works for Milwaukee's near west side and Wauwatosa.  Both are being proposed by Watertown-based Bethesda Lutheran Communities Inc., a nonprofit group that provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.   Online article  


03 03       “BECAUSE YOU LOVE ME"

Jessica Meuse finished fourth in the 13th season of "American Idol" and wrote “Because You Love Me."  After visiting Bethesda’s headquarters in Watertown it took her only a short period of time to write her song.



A high angle view of a building

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A rendering of the Bethesda Cornerstone Village - Highland housing development. (Rendering: Quorum Architects)


Watertown-based Bethesda Lutheran Communities is moving forward with plans to bring a new model of housing for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to Milwaukee’s near west side, the first of what could be several similar developments in the area.  Bethesda plans to build a 68-unit apartment building at 3200 W. Highland Blvd. that will include units reserved for adults with intellectual and development disabilities and units for seniors.


The $15.7 million project is planned as a 75,000-square-foot building.  Thirteen units would be dedicated to adults with intellectual and development disabilities and 55 units would be for seniors aged 55 and above. In total, 62 would be affordable-rate and six would be market-rate units.



Sometime over the weekend of September 17, 2021 several buildings at Camp Matz were burglarized and vandalized.  Watertown Officers were able to recover a significant amount of evidence from the scene.  This is an active investigation and police are following all available leads.


Camp Matz is a campground on the south side of the city, located on property owned by Bethesda Lutheran Communities.  The Camp is handicapped accessible and designed for those with developmental disabilities.


01 12       BETHESDA WILL REBRAND AS ABLELIGHT on January 10, 2022


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. . . . About our new name and logo


The name “Bethesda” has served this organization well for nearly a century.  You may recall days gone by in which most Lutheran church congregants would have an instant idea of what Bethesda is and who it serves, by name alone.  “Bethesda Sundays” were commonplace.


Yet as we looked at where we are today and where we need to go tomorrow, a few things became clear.  Many people outside the Lutheran faithful didn’t know what Bethesda was – there are other “Bethesda” organizations out there, including churches, a city in Maryland, and a computer gaming company.  So much confusion!  In fact, in the communities where we provide services there are more than 575 organizations that carry the name Bethesda!


To discern our path forward, we needed to consider the views of a variety of important stakeholders, including:


- Present and future people supported, and their families


- Our employees


- Our current and prospective donors


- Members of churches and faith communities


“Over the course of the last year, we connected with hundreds of individuals in these categories and asked what was important to them,” said Cindy Moon-Mogush, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer.  “For our longtime donors, a connection to faith was paramount.  For donors we hope to join us in the future, making progress toward supporting the whole person was at the top.”  Balancing these valuable perspectives as our starting point, we undertook a thorough and thoughtful process to determine our new name and how we communicate more effectively.  We considered our history and our plans for the future. From there, we identified and vetted a new name – AbleLight – from more than 1,000 choices.  With approval of the Board of Directors, we moved forward with a rebranding process in earnest this past summer.


Our logo: Celebrating past and present


At first glance, the logo AbleLight certainly appears different than the Bethesda logo, yet there is continuity with our past – by design.  In particular, take a close look at the figure of a person surrounded by light.  This works in two ways.  First, it represents the services we provide that embrace the “whole person,” not just meeting some of their needs, but surrounding them with loving care.


Second, you may also notice that the light surrounding the figure recalls many images of Jesus that have been created for hundreds of years.  In this way, we proudly reaffirm our Christian roots and mission.


Not changing quite yet


While we will soon be AbleLight, we are not there yet.  The legal name change will take place on January 10, 2022.


As our name changes, it’s important to reflect on what’s not changing.  We are here to serve the disability community through our Christian mission.  We are the same people serving the same needs.  While we will look and feel a bit different going forward, the mission continues, stronger than ever!



A building with trees in front of it

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The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (the Foundation) is proud to announce the purchase of the former Bethesda Corporate Center and 90 adjacent acres along the Rock River on the city's south side. The Foundation plans to transform the campus into a thriving work-live-play neighborhood that models best practices in community connectedness, health and wellbeing.

Over the next 10 months, the former Corporate Center will be renovated, reopening in the summer of 2023 as The Collective. In 55,000 square feet over three floors, The Collective will house a new YMCA Child Care and Early Education Center, a satellite Express YMCA, Jefferson County Head Start, and nonprofit and innovation coworking spaces. In its entirety, members of The Collective will be a vibrant community of changemakers championing strong families and a prosperous community.

Development of The Collective and adjacent property is an exciting next step toward the Foundation's vision of vibrant communities where everyone enjoys health and wellbeing. The project will also catalyze development in one of the City of Watertown's priority development areas.

"Collaboration is foundational to everything the Foundation does, and this campus will provide many opportunities for community partners to collaborate in improving community vibrancy and wellbeing," said Dr. Mike Sullivan, Foundation Board Chair.

The collective logo

Since 2017, the Foundation has facilitated Every Child Thrives, a partnership of 50+ agencies across Dodge and Jefferson Counties working to ensure all children thrive in health, learning and life. The Collective campus investment is designed to accelerate transformative impact toward Every Child Thrives' strong families and prosperous community goals. The community benefits of this project include:

·         Creation of a new, high-quality early care and education center with capacity to serve 126 children.

·         Nonprofit service colocation so families can access wrap-around supports in one, convenient location.

·         Sharing of office space, resources and services to provide efficiencies for nonprofit service providers, allowing agencies to focus time and attention on those they serve.

·         Shared professional development to advance community impact.

·         Wellness programming to support healthy lifestyle and strengthen community.

·         80+ acres of housing development. A needs assessment is being completed now and a community master planning process will launch in late 2022 to identify how the neighborhood can address the housing shortage affecting all demographic groups in our region.

"The Collective is more than just a work space," says Tina Crave, Foundation President & CEO. "It's a catalyst for our mission, which is to inspire collaboration, mobilize resources and encourage innovation that measurably contributes to the wellbeing of our community."

The Collective will serve as an innovation center, piloting best practices for childcare business sustainability. Outreach from The Collective to early care and education providers across Dodge and Jefferson Counties will connect providers with resources to improve quality of care and operational effectiveness.

The Watertown Area YMCA also announced plans for The Collective to be the future home of the new, full-size YMCA. The YMCA would be developed in two phases based on the support of community donors. Phase one would relocate current operations from the old Watertown High School with amenities including a Gymnasium, Wellness & Free Weight Center, aerobic activity studios and Youth Center. The second phase would center on the addition of a state-of-the-art aquatic facility for instruction, recreation and water safety. The YMCA will release details of future plans as they become funded.

A shared investment in community

"The Collective is a dream we've explored behind the scenes for many years," says Crave. "After exploring several options, from building new to repurposing space, we are excited to bring these dreams to life at this location."

Total capital costs to purchase the 90 acres, renovate and finish the 55,000 square foot Collective are budgeted at $16 million. Jefferson County and Dodge County have each allocated $200,000 and the City of Watertown has allocated $400,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support The Collective's goals of increasing access to quality child care across the region.

"One of the goals our city council set was to use our ARPA funds in a manner that the impact of the funds lasted well beyond the funding itself," Mayor Emily McFarland said. "There is no doubt about it that our community needs more child care slots; I've seen the data and I've heard it during nearly every business visit I've done. I'm thankful to the Foundation for leading this effort, to the YMCA for being an incredible community partner, and to the city council for allocating this level of involvement. It will make an incredible impact on workforce availability, on the families in our community, and on the children in care. In government, you don't always get the opportunity to be a proactive and strategic leader of change; I'm thrilled we get to be a part of that with this project."

In addition to serving as the new headquarters for the Foundation, The Collective will serve as home for the following agencies:

Watertown Area YMCA

A cornerstone partner in this project, the YMCA will open a new Child Care and Early Education Center and a satellite Express YMCA in 2023.

·         The Child Care and Early Education Center will provide high quality, 5-star accredited care with space for 126 children, including twice as many infant and toddler positions as a typical Center would hold. The Center will offer better than industry average wages for staff and the Y intends to develop collaborative relationships with area businesses related to childcare fees for their employees. These strategies aim to further support and stabilize the child care industry as a whole.

·         The Express YMCA will offer 24 hour access to health and wellness opportunities for all levels, including cardio equipment, weight machines, and group exercise spaces for traditional classes, small group training, and virtual/on-demand classes. The space will have amenities that cater to those who are new or returning to exercise. An EGYM circuit will offer personalized workouts that are effective and fun with technology that tailors the experience for each specific individual. "We like to say it's the last new space of the old YMCA and the first space of the new YMCA (to be added)" said Jon Lange, YMCA Chief Executive Officer.

·         Future plans include the relocation of existing YMCA operations to The Collective with a new, full facility YMCA.

Jefferson County Head Start - A federal- and state-funded preschool program focusing on school readiness for 3-5 year old children, at no cost to eligible families.

AbleLight (formerly Bethesda) - Provides life-changing services that empower people with developmental disabilities to achieve their full potential.

Community Action Coalition - A nonprofit working to end poverty and help people live better lives.

Safe Families for Children - A professionally supported volunteer movement dedicated to providing "extended family-like supports" to local families facing a crisis.

Jefferson County Human Services - Enhancing the quality of life for individuals and families living in Jefferson County by addressing their needs in a respectful manner and enabling citizens receiving services to function as independently as possible, while acknowledging their cultural differences.

Innovation coworking space - This coworking space invites community changemakers from all backgrounds and sectors into The Collective. A selective leasing process will prioritize civic-minded entrepreneurs and businesses who are looking to share space with a network of community changemakers.

Leases will include private workspace with wraparound amenities that foster connection and provide efficiencies, including:

·         Shared, technology equipped conference rooms

·         "The Atrium" a networking and event space with a grand view

·         Private Zoom rooms

·         Quarterly networking and collaboration events

·         Shared professional development and networking

·         Onsite early care and fitness facilities

·         Shared café space

·         Shared utilities and services (wifi, printing, lawn care, waste removal)

Benefits for all

The Collective is a shared investment in community prosperity, ultimately lifting families, agencies, volunteers and businesses.

·         Families will benefit from the addition of badly-needed early care and education slots, along with convenient access to a variety of support services.

·         Children will enjoy a five-star learning environment, preparing them for success at school.

·         Volunteers will enjoy a coordinated approach that connects them with meaningful, timely tasks that benefit a variety of agencies.

·         Agencies can strengthen their reach and effectiveness with:

o    Reduced operating costs (economies of scale, stable and affordable office space, shared services), and

o    Broadened capacity, impact and sustainability (resources, professional development, collaboration and operational support).

·         The community will enjoy vibrant new civic spaces.

·         Civic-minded entrepreneurs and businesses can find a home that is much more than just office space, joining a forward-thinking community of changemakers.

Renovation plans and Timeline

·         August, 2022 Purchase property Begin remodeling The Collective

·         Fall, 2022 YMCA will kick off capital fundraising campaign to raise funds for a full new YMCA Community members will be invited to participate in a Master Planning process for future neighborhood development

·         Spring, 2023 The Collective opens

To date, the foundation has invested more than $14 million in its five strategic, child-focused priorities:

·         strong families

·         kindergarten readiness

·         school success

·         social and emotional wellbeing

·         healthy eating/active living




WDTimes article



The eight-bed facility will be located on property recently purchased by the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.  The 90 acres now owned by the foundation are the former home of Bethesda Lutheran Communities and includes Bethesda’s former corporate headquarters.  The 55,000 square-foot office building that housed the corporate offices is slated to be home to services provided by the YMCA, Jefferson County Head Start and others.       WDTimes article



The Ehlinger Center is the chosen name for the express Y opening at The Collective later this summer.  In honor of Bill and the Ehlinger Family.  Bill's vision to bring community together with a focus on health and well-being through the HAWC ultimately led to the Y being in Watertown.   His dedication and commitment to the Watertown community laid the foundation for our Y to thrive and grow to what it is today.




Watertown Historical Soc Archives




Bethesda Archives (under construction)

        < PORTFOLIO OF PICS:  Album_002_1933-1942.






                Weltbuerger Printing Co did considerable work for Bethesda and their clients




The Henry Mulberger home was one of the biggest and most elegant in the city, located at 311 S. Washington St.  For many years the home was owned and used as a group home for Bethesda Lutheran Communities and was later sold and i in private hands.



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History of Watertown, Wisconsin