GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/Chatfield News
Percy and Paula Bessingpas are the honorary grand marshals of the 50th annual Western Days grand parade, which will be held in Chatfield in August.
GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/Chatfield News Percy and Paula Bessingpas are the honorary grand marshals of the 50th annual Western Days grand parade, which will be held in Chatfield in August.
Percy and Paula Bessingpas add up to 84. These two Chatfield business owners will be honored as the grand marshals of the 50th annual Western Days parade, slated for mid-August. Paula has owned Baliwick Gifts for 41 years and Percy purchased the Cremer and Evans plumbing, electrical and excavating company in 1974, adding 43 years to the business owners’ total.

“I started my store in July 1976 with my sister-in-law, Norma. She was there five years, and then they moved to California, so I adjusted my store…it started out as a lot of consignment,” explained Paula.

Paula married Percy, whom she met at high school in Wykoff, in 1962 at the old Chatfield United Methodist Church, and they settled outside of Pleasant Grove – on the Chatfield side of the school district line – shortly after. Their four children grew up attending school in Chatfield and stopping in at their parents’ businesses after the school day was through.

Paula stated, “We have four kids, two boys and two girls. Michael lives outside of Chatfield, Teresa lives in Cave Creek, Ariz., – north of Phoenix, Jennifer lives in Preston, and Darren is overseas. We have eight grandchildren.”

Their little farm is now home to chickens, three ducks, sheep and pigs, and is a great place to explore what it’s like to hobby farm.

Percy observed, “It’s an ‘Old McDonald’ kind of farm, I think. The sheep are Jacob Four-Horn and a Dorper cross.”

Paula added, “The pigs are Hereford – they’re a heritage pig – and all our animals came from swap meets.”

Percy is probably best known around Chatfield for his fix-it abilities, and Paula, for her eye for secondhand goods, but it might be worth reminding the community that at one time, they were also known for their white-washing.

Paula related, “We owned the Laundromat for about 10 years, and then Myron Allen bought it.”

They’ve kept their separate businesses in Chatfield because they both enjoy meeting people. “We are semi-retired,” she shared, “but we enjoy being there.”

Percy agreed, “We still have a lot of things in town, and we have our buildings – I have the Quonset building down to the FerrellGas lot.”

The Bessingpases volunteer with the Chatfield Commercial Club and other efforts around town. Paula is known as the “cookie lady” during the club’s annual Christmas Santa visit and the “egg lady” during the annual Easter egg hunt.

Percy is the guy who hauls things in and out of venues when there’s an event coming up.

Paula remarked, “We like to keep busy. I enjoy being there, being part of the Commercial Club, and I enjoy doing a lot of volunteer work. If you’ve got the time, you should find something to volunteer for. I enjoy the volunteer work that we do and being in town. I’ve done the Western Days craft show and flea market for years, and I’ve also done the low-level workout fitness class for 25 to 30 years for community education.”

Percy pointed out, “We’ve worked the Western Days pancake breakfast for a lot of years.”

Paula concurred, “That’s since I joined the club and chaired it.”

After they’ve decided how much they want to work in a week’s time – because they’re semi-retired – they spend weekends hauling their secondhand furniture and oddments to flea markets around the region.

Paula shared, “We’ve gone to flea markets since our kids were little, because we’d drag them to the flea market after church on Sunday. We weren’t dressed for the flea markets, but we’d go. All our kids enjoy flea markets and secondhand stores…they love it all, love a bargain. And going to flea markets, we’ve found that most people at the markets are retired or semi-retired. Also, we could write a book about the things that have happened at the markets.”

That might include waking up in their pickup camper in a wild thunderstorm, or the time they rescued their sales tent from high winds and Percy was lifted off the ground while trying to hold it down. Still, that’s how they spend their weekends if there’s a market at which to show their vintage finds.

Percy, with his feet back on the ground, commented, “The people there come from all walks of life…all kinds of people, but we all have the same interest. And, it’s a new place to go camping on the weekends.”

At home east of Pleasant Grove, they pass the days keeping after their little herd of pigs, doing chicken chores and tending the gardens.

Paula cited, “We have a big vegetable garden, half a dozen perennial gardens, we do yard work, remodeling the house a couple of times — Percy has done all the work.”

Percy stated, “This is our third kitchen. And I pick and choose what work I want to do.”

The couple will take their place at the beginning of the Western Days parade, feeling honored to be chosen as the grand marshals of the half-century procession.

Paula concluded, “We were really surprised. I kept it a secret from Percy for two months because Pam (Bluhm) told me not to tell. It’s nice to be part of the town and be in the parade behind the VFW. We enjoy being able to be there.”