A century of care: Bethany Home marks 100-year anniversary

Bethany Home

Founded: 1923

Employees: 130

Address: 1005 Lincoln Ave.

Contact: 563-556-5233

Website: bethanyhomedubuque.org

Marge Nauman, 100, has lived in a Bethany Home apartment for the past 12 years.

“I’m kind of an antique here,” she said with a laugh.

Nauman said she wanted to move to a place like Bethany Home after finding out she had a bad aortic valve, which was later fixed with surgery.

“I looked, and I thought Bethany Home was a good choice,” she said. “I’m not sorry I made that decision. … The staff and the people who live here are interesting. The group has changed, but everyone is still interesting.”

Bethany Home marks its 100th anniversary this year. The retirement community, which offers both independent-living apartments and a nursing facility for those 60 years old or older, has been located at 1005 Lincoln Ave. for the entirety of its history.

“I think Bethany has a special aura or atmosphere about it,” said Susan Westmark, who has worked at Bethany Home since 1994 and has been its administrator since 2015. “We are always working to make each resident’s experience happy and the best it can be. I’ve loved watching it grow and (change) over time, but we still are giving the same level of care.”

A century of growth

The idea for what would become Bethany Home started in 1920, when Rev. Adolph Krebs shared his desire to start a home for the “aged” in Galena, Ill. with Dr. William C. Laube. After Krebs’ death, Laube took on the goal of founding such a place.

In 1923, what was then called Bethany Home for the Aged opened on Lincoln Avenue with Laube as its first president. The original home was donated by the family of late Dubuque businessman Christian Loetscher for the purpose of starting the older-adult living facility.

The home has undergone numerous additions and renovation projects in its history. After an annex was built in 1950, the total capacity at the home was 50 people. By 1976, the facility had 38 apartments and 56 beds in its nursing unit.

Westmark said the original house was torn down in 2002 due to its age, and residents and staff were moved into the facility’s newer additions. Then, in 2003, the current Bethany Home was completed with a look reminiscent of the original house. The new space added 24 apartments and enabled every room in the nursing facility area to be private.

More recently, in 2011, a 12-bed memory care unit was added to the facility.

‘Quality care, exceptional living’

The facility is designed in a way that emphasized both quality healthcare and quality of life.

Westmark said the Lincoln Lounge on the first floor is a recent addition, where residents take part in “happy hour.”

“My vision was to see people socializing, reading the paper,” she said.

The first floor primarily encompasses office space and dining areas. Both the first and third floor have one- or two-bedroom independent-living apartments, with 50 people currently living in those spaces.

The nursing facility is on the home’s second floor, where 66 people are housed. The floor is currently undergoing a remodel.

“We’re in the process of updating all the doors and flooring,” Westmark said. “We’re painting. It’s an entire revamp.”

Westmark added that residents also love socializing outside on the facility’s porch area, where picnics are held on Wednesdays. Residents also enjoy Bingo, trips to places such as Eagle Point Park and the ability to buy gifts in Bethany Home’s gift shop.

Bethany Home also offers residents a wellness center complete with a walking track and exercise equipment. Westmark said wellness classes are also held routinely throughout the week.

In addition, residents can attend both Catholic and Presbyterian church services at a chapel in Bethany Home.

The first floor also includes a wall of Bethany Home residents who have reached the age of 100, including five current residents. The facility’s oldest-ever was Evelyn Callahan, who died in 2019 at the age of 109.

CJ Adams, a 101-year-old World War II veteran, will have lived at Bethany Home for five years in December. Bethany Home is the fourth retirement community Adams has lived in.

“I’d recommend Bethany Home,” he said. “I think it’s the number-one place in Dubuque. The staff is extremely talented.”

Adams added that Bethany Home’s food is also good. Residents there have two entrée choices to pick from for mealtimes.

Peg Meyers, 100, has lived at Bethany Home for nine years.

“My aunt was here,” she said. “I came up here every day for five years with her, and I thought it was a good place to come. … Bethany (Home) is very friendly. Everybody seems to take care of your needs or whatever you want.”

Westmark said care for all residents was challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, when residents couldn’t see family members. However, both staff and Bethany Home’s Board of Directors committed to doing anything possible to continue making a positive impact on residents’ lives, including adding activities to keep residents moving and engaged.

“Our tagline is quality care, exceptional living,” Westmark said. “We keep updating the care we give. Times have changed a lot. Residents are often coming in sicker than they once did. We focus on how we can meet the needs of where they are at. … Gifts (from donors) have allowed us to plan and keep us current as we move into the future.”