If the 168 residents of the Gold Country Retirement Community, Independent Living Center could vote for El Dorado Rose, Claudia Bethke would be their pick.
Bethke, 60, is sponsored by the Gold Country Retirement Community, and her candidacy brings joy to the residents of the Independent Living Center where Bethke works.
The El Dorado Rose accolade is awarded by a panel of pageant judges, but her extended family has enjoyed her rose-like presence all along. In fact, the Gold Country Retirement Center wanted to nominate Bethke two years ago but she was still too young.
An assistant to the housing manager in the independent living section of the retirement center Bethke knows each of the 168 residents there by name. Whenever Bethke comes to work, they are thrilled to see her, a joy that was multiplied when Bethke dressed up in her Rose outfit for her Rose reception.
When not attending Rose events, Bethke enjoys wearing classic attire anyway.
“I try to dress up everyday in dresses, as our residents did in the past,” Bethke said, her brown eyes sparkling. “The residents (who are really my extended family) always like to see what I am wearing.”
With a gentle, youthful demeanor that reflects the love she has for her extended family, Bethke has found a perfect niche that utilizes her many talents as well as her love for the older generation.
Besides planning crafts, taking the residents to movies and outings and other duties, Bethke finds joy in suggesting a book every month for the residents to read. As an avid reader, Bethke cherishes that responsibility.
“I love working here as much as the residents love living here,” said Bethke with positive radiance. One of her duties at the Gold Country Independent Living Center is to guide tours of the facility to potential residents.
The youngest of five children, Bethke was raised by a loving family in Los Angeles. She was imbued with old-fashioned values in childhood, something she seems to share with the seniors at Gold Country.
With parents stressing education and ethics, and her Swiss grandparents modelling old-world wisdom, Bethke didn’t disappoint. Not only did she become well-educated, Bethke has always volunteered and helped to inspire positive changes in her communities.
Bethke started volunteering as a Candy Striper while she was in high school. In college, while earning an AA in literature and a BA in fine arts and humanities, she became a Girl Scout Co-Leader and “Pink Lady” at the local hospital auxiliary along with other members of the Kappa Delta sorority.
“As long as you have food and a roof over your head, there’s always an opportunity to help others,” Bethke asserted, a philosophy her parents eschewed.
Upon graduating, Bethke began teaching elementary school, another career she enjoyed, especially being in charge of the children’s summer reading program.
From the creativity and responsibility of planning curriculum through the years, Bethke moved to Los Gatos, where she became a high tech buyer, dealing with such business as flight simulators, also called “blue boxes.”
In another position, she purchased printed circuit boards, integrated circuits and other custom commodities for local area networking companies.
“It was a high tech, high stress environment,” Bethke acknowledged, her eyes lighting up when she added, “And on the weekends, I sold antiques.”
For Bethke, antiques have always been a passion. She has found it very fascinating to learn about history through the beauty and style of antiques. Bethke, who used to have a niche in Empire Antiques downtown, is especially fond of quilts, textiles and hand-embroidered linens, and antique purses … as well as vintage clothing.
She is almost petite enough to wear the tiny Victorian styles, but has found that many antique outfits are too delicate to be worn. However, Bethke has truly enjoyed putting together the outfits she will wear at the El Dorado Rose Pageant and other Rose events.
When Bethke’s parents retired, they moved to Lake Tahoe, which brought a now-married Bethke to the foothills. Her family had visited this area for many years and she knew that she would one day live in El Dorado County.
“I’m a country girl at heart and I was thrilled to be here,” Bethke said. After the high tech industry, she found her first “fun” job at Grandpa’s Cellar, where she worked in the gift shop. She had never been an apple pie aficionado, but Grandpa’s Cellar made such delicious pies, she began liking them and recommending them.
Then volunteering became the hub of her life, helping in the Marshall Auxiliary and for the Bob West Drive for Marshall, a golf tournament fundraiser for the Marshall Medical Foundation.
A member of the American Association of University Women, Bethke quietly “adopted” a family who was using the New Morning and Youth and Family counseling service, ensuring that they would have jackets, food and gifts for the holidays.
Having moved to Pollock Pines in 1997, Bethke became very active in the Dogwood Garden Club and the Pollock Pines beautification projects among other activities. Since her sister, a breast cancer survivor owns a winery with her husband, Bethke helps out with their fundraisers on behalf of cancer research.
Bethke adores her nieces, three stepchildren and six grandchildren. She married rather late in life, but she was able to travel and have great adventures. She’s taken a helicopter ride in the Haleakala Crater on Maui, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, skied in the Swiss Alps and enjoys Whitewater rafting.
“I enjoy anthropology and culture,” Bethke smiled, “and I really like people and history.”
Someday Bethke would like to travel extensively in Amish country and learn more about the culture and their quilts.
In the meantime, Bethke elevates culture everyday as her own varied quilt progresses with roses and rose-hued memories.
Whether Bethke becomes the 2012-13 El Dorado Rose or becomes a Lady of the Court, the rose-tinted joy, love and support of her extended family reminds one that “La Vie En Rose” can exist at any age.
E-mail the writer at [email protected]
Editor’s note: The profiles of Rose candidates Sandra Kowalski, Sharon McDavid and Rosemary Lewis will appear in future issues.