NORTH NEWTON, KAN. -- About 44 years ago, Berneil Rupp Mueller was a young mother finishing up her degree at Bethel College and being the parent to two small daughters while her husband, Ted, continued teaching in Hutchinson. "I had an apartment on campus," Mueller remembers, "and two little girls, ages 2 and 4." She would take the girls to play on the playground equipment in the small "valley" on the west side of the campus where Kidron Kottage also sits.
"My younger daughter, who fell off her chair at every meal, would climb to the top of the slide and dance and prance around," Mueller says. Those were the days when there was no protective "cage" at the top of a slide. "I’ve been worrying about that slide for 44 years."
This fall, Mueller and her family got the chance to finally do something about that. Using memorial gifts for her mother, Linda Balzer Rupp (a 1932 Bethel graduate), who died last December, and additional gifts from the family, Mueller had some of the old equipment removed and new play structures, including a spiral slide, installed. The area also honors Mueller’s father, Weldon "Bun" Rupp. The Rupps lived in the Moundridge area for many years. Bun Rupp died in 1986.
"The gift seemed appropriate, because my parents not only worked hard--they played hard, too," notes Mueller. Linda and Bun Rupp were great supporters of Bethel athletics. The circular grassy area in front of the Bethel College library contains two bronze plaques honoring the Rupps for their dedication to and enthusiasm for sports at Bethel. The plaques were gifts from "Bethel College Athletics" (for Linda) and "Bethel College Volleyball 1978-88" (for Bun).
Another reason Mueller was interested in using the site for a memorial is because, she says, "the area is dear to me. The fireplace in Kidron Kottage was given in memory of my brother Bill, who died of tetanus in 1949 at age 10.
"We’ve been noticing more and more, since we came back to live in North Newton [from Grinnell, Iowa, in 1999], what a lovely spot that is, with the little valley," Mueller continues. "This fall, we’ve had two family gatherings there. We had an informal inauguration for the playground equipment in October with two great-nieces, then 3, and a great-nephew, 10. We enjoyed that so much that our family had a Thanksgiving gathering there a few weeks later.
"We ate and sat around at Kidron Kottage, warmed by the fireplace, without the distraction of TV or phones, and it was so peaceful and beautiful.
"I’d like more people to discover this spot," she concludes. "It seems to me that there’s been more activity there this fall--I’ve seen young families and even college students playing there."