Friday, June 23, 2006

Haemmerle synonymous with community service

Ketchum woman recognized with Heritage Court nomination

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Express Staff Writer

Beatrice "Bebe" Ott Haemmerle poses in 1949. Photo courtesy The Community Library

Fourth in a series of four: The Legacy of Ladies

When Beatrice Ott Haemmerle moved to the Ketchum area in 1950, her father advised her to get involved in the community.

"Bebe," as she's more commonly called, didn't disappoint him. Fifty-six years later she's left a legacy of service to recreation, local government, schools, various charities, The Community Library and St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center.

The name Bebe Haemmerle is nearly synonymous with community service in the Wood River Valley.

In recognition of her contributions, The Community Library nominated Haemmerle as the Ketchum and Sun Valley representative to the 2006 Blaine County Museum Heritage Court.

"She is an institution here," said Heritage Court director Laura Hall. "She's one of the better known and highly respected Ketchum ladies."

Although Haemmerle could not be reached for an interview, it wasn't difficult to find others with good things to say about one of the valley's best-known women.

"We felt that she's kind of an unsung hero because she's always been in the wake of her husband, who was a famous skier," said Chris Millspaugh, Community Library Regional History director.

Haemmerle, 83, is the widow of Florian Haemmerle, an artist and famous skier who started the first backcountry mountaineering ski school in the United States at Sun Valley in the 1940s.

Haemmerle met her husband in Sun Valley in 1949 while she was on a ski vacation.

Millspaugh related a story from Haemmerle's oral history, on file at the library that tells of her and Florian Haemmerle's involvement with Virginia Hill, the girlfriend of mobster Bugsy Siegel, who built the original Flamingo hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

According to the story, Hill stayed at Sun Valley in 1949. Cash would arrive for her in shoeboxes, and she made a habit of tipping or giving away hundred-dollar bills.

The story goes that Hill heard Haemmerle was coming to Sun Valley, so she offered Florian Haemmerle $100, saying: "Here you (go). You buy a new sweater and look nice for your girlfriend." According to the story, Florian Haemmerle refused the money and told Hill, "I can buy my own sweater." But, the next day there was $100 in his ski school mailbox.

The couple was married in 1950 and lived in Sun Valley for a year until they moved into a new home in Ketchum, where Haemmerle still lives.

Once settled in the valley, it didn't take Haemmerle long to get involved. She became one of the first volunteers at The Gold Mine, a Ketchum thrift store that raises money for The Community Library. She has been a regular volunteer since the library opened in the 1950s.

Ann Taylor, library board chair, said Haemmerle has worked tirelessly to help raise money.

"She washed and hemmed clothing, sewed on buttons, put in zippers and did what was needed in order to make the clothes ready to sell," Taylor said.

Haemmerle also served for a time on the library's board of directors.

She was one of the six founding members of the Papoose Club and helped raise money for playground equipment at Hemingway Elementary School, in Ketchum. She was active in the parent-teacher association and volunteered by helping collect lunch money and driving children to various school activities.

Haemmerle has been a financial supporter of St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and the Blaine County Recreation District. She helped fund the area's bike trails and uses the paths herself for frequent walks.

She was one of the first members of the Ketchum Planning and Zoning Commission.

Teddie Daley, director of the Blaine County Historical Museum, said Haemmerle is an ideal candidate for the Heritage Court.

"Basically, she's been here forever," Daley said, "helping to preserve the history and heritage of the area."

Heritage Court

The Blaine County Museum's Heritage Court, consisting of women who are honored annually as having influenced their communities, will be crowned in a pageant at the Liberty Theatre in Hailey, from 3 to 5 p.m., Sunday, June 25. The pageant is free and includes entertainment by Footlight Dance Centre and a barbershop quartet from Twin Falls called Give and Take. They are riding in the Days of the Old West Parade on the Fourth of July in Hailey, the Bellevue Labor Day Parade, and the Ketchum Wagon Days Parade.

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