Weather Forecast


NAOMI DUNAVAN: Happy 100th birthday Bethesda

Eunice Vold

Many noteworthy things happened in 1914.

For example: The world’s first red and green traffic lights were installed in Cleveland; George Washington Carver began experimenting with peanuts as a new cash crop for Southern farmers; President Woodrow Wilson set aside aSunday in May to honor mothers, and the Greyhound Bus Co. began in Minnesota.

Did you notice? All the above were for the good of the people — providing safety, food, livelihood, admiration and transportation.

While all this was taking place, something else quite remarkable happened here in the Red River Valley. Locally 1914 saw the beginning of the Bethesda Society and 100 years later it is as sound as Greyhound, traffic lights, peanuts and Mother’s Day.

The word Bethesda is found in the Bible and alludes to a pool in Jerusalem famed for having healing powers. Bethesda means “a house of grace and kindness.”

Eunice Vold, Grand Forks, has served as Bethesda Society president for the past decade. The organization’s purpose is “two-fold,” Eunice said. “It’s to know and do the will of our Savior Jesus Christ, and to inspire our members to a deeper consecration of Christian service.”

Bethesda members are to be commended. Their vision is to care for the elderly and their Christian service focuses wholly on the hundreds of people who reside on the three campuses of Valley Memorial Homes in Grand Forks.

“Everything they do touches the lives of the residents and tenants whether it’s through their gifts, their social gatherings or their personal conversations,” said Sue Bjornstad, director of development for Valley Memorial Foundation. “I think just to still be here after 100 years through wars, depressions, floods and personal perseverance, tells a lot about Bethesda’s commitment to Valley Memorial Home and the people who live there.”

It’s not surprising that the North Dakota Long Term Care Association has named the Bethesda Society its Volunteer Group of the Year. Members will accept the award in Bismarck on April 30.

“We are honored. When you think of the whole state of North Dakota, there are many organizations that could get that,” Eunice said.

“Valley Memorial Home is very proud of this great deserving volunteer group and we are so happy to see them win this in their 100th year,” said Garth Rydland, president and CEO. “The day I found out they won completely made my week. I had to sit on this news for a week and it just about killed me. I hope they can win a national award. They are so deserving.”

Bethesda starts

First called The Bethesda Association, it was organized for the sole purpose of building an Old People’s Home in Grand Forks which was the topic at a pastoral circuit meeting in the Mekinock, N.D., parsonage home of the Rev. and Mrs. O.T. Ness.

Rev. Ness and other area Lutheran pastors encouraged women of their congregations to become involved with Bethesda and soon five Bethesda branches were meeting and raising money at church suppers, food and rummage sales and ice cream socials. Within 10 years they raised $30,000 and that money built the first home for the aged on Almonte Avenue in Grand Forks. It opened in 1924 with 40 residents.

The five branches of Bethesda soon merged into one and monthly meetings were held at the home. Dues were $1 a year then and still are to this day.

In 1959, Dr. Arthur Tweet, long time administrator and president of the Old People’s Home, announced that its new name would be, Valley Memorial Home. Today the three campuses are at 2900 14th Ave. S., 3300 S. Cherry St. and 4000 24th Ave. S.

The Bethesda Society has 50 members and hopes to add another 50 by the end of its 100th year.

In 2004, the Bethesda Society’s executive board pledged $10,000 over a three-year period for the Valley Memorial Homes Chaplaincy Endowment Fund.

“We made that three-year pledge again in 2007, 2010 and 2013,” Eunice said. “By the end of 2015, we will have contributed $40,000 to the Chaplaincy Endowment Fund. We’ve also contributed $1,000 (a year) for several years to the present chaplaincy fund.”

“Plus we’ve made other contributions to projects for residents of the home,” she said.

Benevolence never tires nor tarries

Members work and plan all year long for their two main fundraisers. The first, an annual salad luncheon for the public, is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at 4000 Valley Square. Tickets are $7.

The second major fundraiser is an ice cream social the last Sunday in June.

Regular Bethesda meetings are from 2 to 3:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month also at 4000 Valley Square. Even then, the society keeps the residents in mind. They have a brief business meeting then sit back to enjoy with the residents, a program of music and inspiration presented by various churches. Next Wednesday’s presenters are the Rev. Karen Young Trenne and women from Bygland and Fisher Lutheran churches, both in Polk County. Cake and coffee will round out the afternoon.

“About 100 residents come every time,” Eunice said. “The room is full.”

Current officers serving with Eunice are: Olive Weber, first vice president; Kathy Mutcher, second vice president; Jo Claire Paulson, secretary; and Evie Boushee, treasurer. Board members are: Evelyn Duncklee, Margy Gabrielsen and Judi Loer.

Evelyn, who will be 90 in August, joined Bethesda in 1973 and has faithfully served in many capacities for 41 years. Dellas Peterson and the late Marie Brokken both served as president for many years.

“We are grateful for all the women who continue to work with the Bethesda Society,” Eunice said. “We are also very grateful for the churches that present the monthly programs and serve the lunch. And I’m thankful for the privilege that is mine to serve my Lord in this way. I never dreamed I would be president.”

It seems a line the late Marie Brokken included in one of her long-ago reports rings true yet today for the Bethesda Society. Marie penned: “When God directs our steps, the up-look is grand, the outlook is bright and the future is glorious.”

Reach Dunavan at Read her blog at