(October 5, 2014 - Last week we lost one of our favorite "Have You Met?" personalities - the Beautiful Bertha Haugen. Bertha was a "one of a kind" woman and will be greatly missed in the community.)
Bertha Haugen, 83 years young, just sparkles with a simplistic beauty. Behind those gorgeous blue eyes is a world of knowledge. Bertha has earned the right to be known as “The Queen Mum” of Denver’s nonprofit community. When you look at Bertha’s calendar, just about every day is booked with a charitable meeting or event – and it’s been this way for more than 50 years.
Bertha has known highs and lows over time, but she has never lost her optimism and zest for life. Bertha is living an active and meaningful life, and she loves sharing her energy and enthusiasm. Bertha says she is “chronologically advantaged.” For sure she is a woman for all ages.
If you have heard Bertha play the piano at various functions, you know that she is an accomplished pianist loaded with talent. Her glorious laugh sends the message that being alive is grand! As Bertha beams with happiness, “The best is yet to come!” Now this is a woman to look up to, love and admire.
(Bertha's Recognitions, Committee, & Board Work: American Heart Association “Hearts for Life”; Kempe Center Alliance; Denver Center Alliance; Denver Ballet Guild; Fine Arts Foundation; Children’s Diabetes Association; “Women Aglow” Founder; Board of Faculty Wives of Physicians at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center; Deb Ball; Chamber Orchestra’s “Volunteer of the Year”; The Central City “Bell Award”; University of Denver Women’s Library; - and many others).
What do you think is the greatest problem our country is facing today? We have a problem right now with divisiveness. Our country is divided in many areas – economically, politically, and philosophically. We saw it with the Terri Schiavo case, and we see it with the different opinions on the Iraqi war. During World War II, we were a unified people. We were in agreement about supporting and protecting our country and not allowing anyone to come here and run over us. We sacrificed a lot during that time, and our sacrifices saved the world. Today, making this type of a commitment and sacrifice is foreign to many people.
What did you like most about life before all the high-tech gadgets came along? Before high-tech, life was simpler. When I was a young girl, not everyone even had a radio. During the depression, a radio was the main form of communication. Television wasn’t around, and we didn’t know as much as people know now. We weren’t as busy with so many different things, and times seemed safer. You could walk to and from school without problems. We were all a bit naïve though.
What will we find you doing on one of your days off? I certainly don’t sit around. I’m working in my home and in my garden, playing the piano and going to events. When I was in South Carolina for five days visiting my family, they didn’t let me do a thing – and I really didn’t know how to act. When I came back, the people at work said I looked “tanned, rested and ready!”
What do you do to “decompress” after a stressful day? I take a 20-minute nap. 20 minutes will revive me! It helps me function for the rest of the evening.
What three things are always in your refrigerator? Rice milk, eggs, and chicken & lettuce.
What is your favorite place in your house? My Dining Room. I do my work in there.
If your house was up for sale, and a prospective buyer did a walk through, what would your home tell them about you? My love of life, family - and when they see my two pianos, they will see my love of music.
What social or charitable event is your favorite? The one I’m attending at the moment. : ) I’ve always loved the Summer Deb Ball, The Heart Ball, and The Kempe Foundation events. One of my most favorites used to be the Central City Fashion Show. There were great designers showing beautiful clothes, and it was all very exciting! Getting up there and back was like a wonderful daylong picnic. The Alzheimer’s organizations have wonderful speakers and events too. I’ve also attended many great events that the Colorado Neurological Institute has presented.
What type of fundraising activities are you involved in at this time? I’m the Historian for the Heart Association, the Kempe Foundation, and the Debutants. I attend many other charitable fundraising meetings and events throughout the year. I also take and have taken hundreds of pictures for many charitable organizations.
Who is your hero, and why? The founder of the religious Reformation Movement, Martin Luther. Because of my love of freedom, I believe Martin Luther set people free. He understood how important it was to not be oppressed, and there was so much oppression back in his time. He paved the way to religious freedom for many. Another hero for me would be Ronald Reagan.
When he said, “Mr.Gorbachev, Tear down that wall!” - I wept when that wall came down, and my Grandson, Danny, came and asked me, “Grandma, why did you cry when the Berlin wall came down? My daughter then explained to him, “Do you know why Grandma cried? It’s because it meant freedom for the people.”
And I also have to include my two Grandmothers. They were immigrants to this country and each had 7 children that they raised. They were strong, amazing women who overcame many challenges.
What is your favorite magazine? House & Garden or any home and garden type of magazine.
What is your favorite television show? The News, 60 Minutes, and I enjoy basketball games too! I also love to listen to NPR on the radio.
What is a favorite childhood memory? There were three of us kids, my brother and sister and I. Our mom died when I was only five and our dad wasn’t able to take care of us at the time, so we were shuttled around between relatives. Mostly, I remember spending great holidays at my grandmother’s house enjoying turkey and lots of good food. Then when I was 10-years-old, we went to live with my Dad and his new wife. That took some time to adjust to.
What do you most value in your friends? Integrity.
What do you like most about yourself? How much I love life.
What do you like least about yourself? Sometimes I’m too blunt.
What makes you laugh? Funny movies like “When Harry Met Sally.”
What makes you cry? Actually, when something wonderful happens!
What is your greatest indulgence? My fancy eyeglasses.
What do you consider your proudest achievement? My daughters. I think I had divine help.
What is your advice for a happy marriage? Having enormous respect for each other, being honest with one another, and being able to communicate.
Who is the real Bertha Haugen? How have you evolved through the years? I used to be the most scared human being. I was terrified of everything and everybody. I was afraid to do anything, and even afraid of my own shadow. Now I’m not like that. The Lord has brought me through many circumstances, and I’ve learned from watching others, and people have helped me along the way. My many wonderful relationships have taught me to develop a different attitude and appreciation of life. I’ve also learned that others are afraid at times just like me. Now I love my faith, my joy of life – it’s such a great ride!
What’s the best advice you have for aging gracefully? You look fabulous! Love life; Don’t expect to ever be sick; Keep going, enjoy every day, and - put yourself in the hands of God.
If your life were a movie, what actress would best play you? Meg Ryan. : )
What is your pet peeve? Deception in relationships.
What do you consider the lowest depth of human misery? Starvation, poverty, and the total helplessness of these conditions.
What are your hobbies or other interests? Playing the piano, gardening, and being around people.
Who is the most interesting celebrity you’ve ever met? I met Tom Brokaw’s wife while I was playing the piano in Central City. She liked my music, and we spent a lot of time talking. She is a lovely lady.
What would you do if you were queen of the world? Try to assemble the most brilliant, scientific minds in the world to figure out ways to help those countries in need solve their social problems and end poverty. Also, I’d stop any wars going on in the world.
What is your most treasured possession? The roof over my head.
What is your personal motto - or favorite quote? “Let your light shine; this gives other people permission to let their light shine,” and “The only way we can change things is one person at a time.”
If you could go back in time and do something differently, what would it be? Back during the depression era, no one talked about his or her feelings. When we were growing up, we never learned how to express love or deal with our feelings. I would have tried to learn more about how to express my feelings and find out why I felt the way I did.
How do you stay so optimistic? I always have hope and faith, and believe the best is yet to come. Hope is one of the most important things a person can have.
What is your current state of mind? I think it’s pretty good!
Is there somewhere other than Denver you would like to live? I would like to spend a month each year with my daughter and her family in South Carolina while they still enjoy my visits.
What’s in the future for Bertha Haugen? To fulfill the divine purpose for my life – whatever that still might be.
What is something you would still like to learn to do? I’d love to sit with a piano teacher who could teach me more about theory and improvisation on the piano – and to learn how to play the Stride Piano.
What might your epitaph read, or what would you like to be remembered for? On my deceased daughter’s stone it says: “Peace Attend Thee…” That would be nice. And, I’d like to be remembered for my joy of life, and my faith in God.
Bertha, you are one of the most inspiringing and wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. I love you dearly. Thank you for all you have been doing for the Kempe Children's Foundation Alliance for so many years I have lost count.
Well Mom, you are definitely the Queen Mum in my life - Meg Ryan? Isn't she a little staid? Tomorrow I'd better behave so I live up to that greatest achievement quote! Echoing Kari - I am proud to be your daughter!
Way to go Mom! It's nice to see this all in one place. Of course I knew you were wonderful along, but I'm glad everyone else has caught on! I agree with everything except the bit about your proudest achievement. :)
I'm so proud of you!
You are truly a "light" and set a wonderful example to many of us with your zeal and energy. I love it when I attend a party and see you behind the piano.
God bless you for many years to come!
Thomas Edmonds Hardy