Waupaca's Bethany Home name dates back to its inception in August 1895, when the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Synod (better known as the Blair Synod) decided to inaugurate a Christian welfare program for orphaned, indigent and neglected children.
Albert Lea, Minnesota, was chosen as the first site for the new children's home. At first a dwelling house was rented to provide temporary housing until the new home was built. When the new building was completed and made ready for the big move, it was named "Bethania Bornerjem," Danish for Bethany Children's Home. It was through the influence and encouragement of her pastor that Mrs. Ane Petersen, who had just recently become a widow, took the position as the home's first Matron. At the annual convention held in Blair, Nebraska, in July 1897, it was voted to move the Bethany Children's Home from Albert Lea to Waupaca. The Danish people of Waupaca all pulled together and raised $600 to help defray the expense of moving and purchasing the new property on which to erect the new children's home. September 7, 1897, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church purchased approximately 30 acres of land from Henry Warren and Fredrick Dunbar for $1,400. This property is located from the banks of the Crystal River to the southeastern shore of Shadow Lake on the old Berlin Road. The new children's home was completed in 1899, at a cost of $2,400, including the equipment and furnishings, and accommodated about 40 children. In October 1899, it was officially opened and it was not long before the Bethany Children's Home population grew to 33.
Ideas and times change policies and in the early 1950's, it became apparent that the children could be place in foster homes to a better advantage, so the orphanage operation was phased out. In 1953, at the annual Wisconsin District Convention of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, a directive was made to arrange for the incorporation of Bethany as an operating Christian home for the aged, using the facilities of the Children's Home. Pastor A.S. Petersen, Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, in Waupaca, and president of the Wisconsin District, U.E.L.C. at that time, conducted the first organization meetings. In later years, Pastor Petersen served as the nursing home's chaplain.
Bethany Home began its operations as a retirement home in 1954 with 18 guests, a budget of less than $4,000 and an abundance of faith. The number of guests increased rapidly; the waiting list grew longer and the State Board health standards more stringent making it imperative that the Home expand and modernize. In April 1960, ground was broken for a modern, enlarged home, located on beautiful Shadow Lake. Guests moved into the modern quarters in October, 1961 and the new Bethany Home was dedicated on December 3, 1961, "To the Glory of God."
Needless to say, strong faith and endless work by volunteers and staff went into these organizational years of Bethany Home, and indeed this continues to be so. Bethany Home is now affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Its corporate members include 32 area Lutheran churches and two Methodist churches. It is licensed as a Skilled Nursing Home by the State of Wisconsin with a maximum occupancy at the present time of 104. Bethany Home is now Medicare and Medicaid Certified.
| Bethany Directors