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Bethel Home celebrates 60th anniversary
bethel home and services
Bethel Home and Services is celebrating its 60th Anniversary Oct. 4 at the Temple Theatre in Viroqua starting at 1 p.m. The public is invited. - photo by Contributed/Inga Gerber

Bethel Home and Services is inviting the community to celebrate its 60th anniversary at a gala event in the Historic Temple Theatre, downtown Viroqua Oct. 4.

The event will include an art show of 16 local scenes painted by area artists, a concert by the Cody Clauson Trio from Coloma, WI, and an anniversary reception.

The event starts at 1 p.m., and admission is free.  A freewill offering will be received to purchase some of the artwork to be displayed at Bethel Home, Maplewood Terrace and the new Bethel Oaks Memory Care Home in honor of the 60th anniversary.

The Bethel Home, built in 1954 -55, was originally scheduled to open Sept. 1, 1955.  However, when construction was 90% complete, a tornado came through Viroqua and tore the roof off.

According to a Vernon County Broadcaster article, “The roof was lifted off the building and landed in a twisted mass across the street.  The home, a project that has been planned since 1946, was nearing completion, the interior work already finished.  A manager (Reverend O. J. Nesheim) had been engaged, but the opening of the home will now be delayed for some time.”

Following this initial setback, Bethel Home was dedicated and opened Nov. 20, 1955.  The first four residents were Ida Squire of Cashton and Ida Henry, Celia Tollefson and Louise Larsen of Viroqua.  In addition to the Reverend Nesheim and his wife Vera, there were three other employees:  Ida Borgen and Kenneth and Stella Dunnum to serve 30 residents.

Bethel Home was built by 32 congregations of the Vernon Circuit of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. That area stretches from Utica and Mt. Sterling to the south, Portland and Fish Creek to the north and De Soto on the Mississippi River to Bethany on Sand Hill. The original home, built in 1955, was a place where people could come together for congregate retirement living.

During the first 20 years, additions to the building made room for over 100 residents and the “home” became a skilled nursing facility with Medicaid certification.

In the 1980’s, Bethel began community services:  adult day care, supportive and personal home care, group homes and independent apartments in Viroqua, Westby, Cashton and La Farge.

In the 1990’s, Bethel started building the Birchwood retirement neighborhood in Viroqua of 15 twin homes with maintenance services.  Bethel Home became Medicare certified and began offering rehabilitation therapy services.  Eldergarden, a secure dementia specific unit, was created to accommodate the growing population of memory care residents within Bethel Home.  Bethel also built Maplewood Terrace, the first assisted living apartments in the area. 

In 2003, Coulee View Apartments was gifted to Bethel.  Bethel Butikk (Boutique) was opened in Westby in 2004 as a volunteer operated thrift shop and food pantry.

This summer, Bethel Oaks Memory Care Home was opened for people with Alzheimer’s or other dementia who need a secure place to live, but don’t need 24 hour nursing care.

Bethel Home was originally built as a place where people came to live for the remainder of their lives.  For one woman, this was nearly 30 years.

As government regulations and costs have escalated, Bethel has made every effort to offer services that allow people to receive rehabilitative therapy to return to their own homes and to offer retirement communities or assisted living to meet consumer and family demand.

Bethel’s CEO, Clark Nordberg, said, “We want to take time to celebrate with the community to thank them for their support.  We hope everyone will come out and enjoy the 60th Anniversary Gala with us.  It is with deep gratitude to Bethel’s founding congregations for their compassion for the elderly and vision to begin the ministry of Bethel Home, that we are able to offer the wide range of services to the community we have today.”