Rev. John and Jeanette Bertsch enjoy deep roots with United Church Homes, ones that stretch back 35 years. They’re also committed to their lifelong faith in the United Church of Christ, having first met as teenagers at a weekend church vocations conference in Mt. Vernon, Ohio, when both were actively engaged with youth groups at their respective churches.
Their roots run long and true. It’s who they are.
They’re rooted in their love and commitment to each other, with an abiding respect hewn by 60 years of marriage, a union that flourished despite a very funny and memorable start to their courtship. John arrived two hours late for their first date after returning from a fraternity pledge event. When he finally did show up, Jeanette’s curiosity was piqued, so she still opted to go out. The shared memory evokes smiles and laughter, on cue from an oft-told family tale.
They both cherish the wisdom that was gained at The Ohio State University, where both attended college. Upon graduation, they married and spent their honeymoon battling a blizzard to travel en route to New Haven, Connecticut, where John was set to begin his studies at Yale Divinity School.
As an ordained UCC minister, John’s work took them many places. They’ve been blessed with two children and four grandchildren and are now retired in Hartville, Ohio, where John served as pastor of a local UCC congregation. It was through this pastoral assignment, where they are deeply rooted in the community, that they first became familiar with Chapel Hill Community in Canal Fulton, Ohio.
Their interest in Chapel Hill began simply, after being invited by a couple from the Hartville church to attend a dinner at Chapel Hill. Later, they learned of a group of women from the same church who volunteered monthly at Chapel Hill. Their interest grew stronger after Ruby Watson, a parishioner, experienced a medical event that made it unsafe for her to drive or live alone. John was helpful in expediting Ruby’s wish to be admitted to Chapel Hill. Eventually, John’s parents became residents there, as did Jeanette’s mother, and the parent of a friend from Ohio State. John and Jeanette reconnected when they realized their fellow Buckeye played piano there every Sunday. John and Jeanette were recognized as the Ben M. Herbster Award honorees for Chapel Hill in 2003.
John joined the United Church Homes Board of Directors in 1994. His board service was rooted in the Spirit, as he served as board chairman from 1998-2001. He continues to serve on the UCH Housing Board, 10 years after he “retired” from the UCH Board. In recognition of his work with affordable housing, John was honored with the Housing Division’s Spirit award for 2015. He is one of only three people who have been awarded both the Herbster and Spirit awards.
As a member of the UCH Housing Board, John is proud of the organization’s commitment to provide affordable housing for seniors on two Native American reservations — OmahaCare in Macy, Nebraska, and Biimaadiiziiwiin in White Earth, Minnesota. His commitment to serve Native Americans is further affirmation of his UCC faith, and is pleased that the UCH Board sees these two projects as part of its ongoing mission.
“I appreciate that the leadership of United Church Homes supports the historic association of the UCC and its predecessor denominations to support Native American people,” he said. “It’s time to take responsibility to address the plight of the Native American communities.”
John also appreciates United Church Homes’ commitment to build relationships with people, “when that is done and done well, there is never a need for ask for money.” It’s one of the many reasons that he and Jeanette have been rooted in generosity to United Church Homes, as attested to by their faithful donations over the past 34 years.
When asked to use a single word to describe their relationship with Chapel Hill and United Church Homes, John answers with “caring,” while Jeanette offers “friendship.”
Thank you, John and Jeanette Bertsch, for your deeply rooted “friendship and caring” to those we serve!