ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Bethesda Lutheran Home

Bethesda Lutheran Communities

Founded 1903




07 14       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]



04 13       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.



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





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




“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



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



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




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


1924               The name BETHESDA appears for the first time.





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






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



               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.    11 12



               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.     10 22



               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.    02 25



               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.     01 04



               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



               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.   05 25


     Architect’s drawing



               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.    06 17



               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.     08 13



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

07 22       Plot of ground deeded to the Watertown Historical Soc so to erect a log cabin on the site, in addition to historical marker.  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



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



05 10       Rev. CLARENCE F. GOLISCH, L.L.D

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



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



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


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.



04 02       Bethesda 75th Anniversary Service   WDT



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.   



02 03       New chapel and religious education center dedicated.   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.  


11 27       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.   



01 25       Bethesda employees honored   WDT

02 22       Alexander Napolitano, executive director, 10 years of service   WDT

04 28       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 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




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


07 06       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




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.


08 20       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



05 24       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


11 06       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



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



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




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.




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.


11 15       Annual Country Fair at the Dodge County Fairgrounds discontinued.   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.



03 05       Bethesda Fire Pit Project   WDT


09 01       Bethesda Changes Name to Bethesda Lutheran Communities     WDT

          Merger of Bethesda and Good Shepherd Communities



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




      Meinhardt Raabe

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




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  



      TMJ-TV 5 min interview 

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.


Watertown Historical Soc Archives

     Portfolio of pics



Bethesda Archives (under construction)






Bethesda website  

               Weltbuerger Printing Co did considerable work for Bethesda and their clients





Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin