Poway, Calif., Oct, 24, 2017 - The construction industry has lost a true champion of merit shop excellence.
Donna Bechthold, 67, passed away on October 1, 2017 from complications after a long battle with cancer. Donna is survived by her husband, Glenn, two daughters, and two grandchildren.
Former Apprenticeship program Executive Director Donna Bechthold
Donna has been a co-owner and president since 1988 of G.I. Bechthold Corporation in Carlsbad, a plumbing contractor. Donna previously worked for the Hughes Aircraft Company from 1980-1988 where she served as advertising and sales promotion manager, and financial analyst.
It is no exaggeration to call Donna Bechthold the mother of the modern ABC Apprenticeship Training program. She originally became involved as a plumbing industry representative on the apprenticeship committee in the late 1980s as ABC added plumbing to its training program after starting with a single program for electricians. Former board chairman Dave Perkins said in a 2011 interview how clearly he remembered the first time he met Donna.
“She was brand-new on the plumbing committee," he said. "It was when I was ABC president and I would drop by and sit in on committee meetings. I was really impressed.”
Training became Bechthold’s passion. She became a member of the Training Trust board of trustees. She helped to expand the training program first to classrooms at Mesa College, which were originally shared with a pottery lab. It wasn’t too much longer before ABC decided it needed a dedicated facility of its own and found a building in the Kearny Mesa area.
“We were one of the first in the industry to bring training in-house. When we moved, it was such a step up,” Perkins said.
In 1999, it was Donna Bechthold who hired a full-time Executive Director for the apprenticeship program, Sherry Yarbrough. Yarbrough said Donna’s strong belief in high quality training for the construction industry convinced her to move across the United States to San Diego.
“Donna was a true believer in the importance and value of the apprenticeship system in training skilled craft workers for the future,” said Yarbrough. “Her dedication and commitment were determining factors in my decision to accept the Executive Director position in 2000.” Yarbrough served in the role 16 years until retiring in 2016.
Donna Bechthold sworn in as a Training Trust member in 2001 by Mayor Dick Murphy
Bechthold served nine years as a trustee, including a term as Trust Board President. For her services to the organization, Bechthold was named ABCer Of The Year in 1998. Bechthold was appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a commissioner on the California Apprenticeship Council from 2007-2014.
Yarbrough said after all her years of dedicated service, Donna Bechthold remained involved and was always available to her for advice or a second opinion. “Under her leadership, ABC San Diego’s apprenticeship training grew from a small, fledgling program to attaining local and national recognition for producing highly skilled craft workers. Few people realized the many hours of dedicated service Donna provided during those early years of growth to make the program as successful as it is today.”
In 2011, Bechthold explained why she dedicated herself to developing the highest quality apprenticeship training standards. ““For so long everybody was pushing the white collar worker. The blue collar worker was pushed to the side.”
Thankfully, this is no longer true, and Donna Bechthold’s contributions cannot be overstated. She will be missed by her many friends and colleagues in the construction industry, but her legacy will always endure.
Donna’s family invites everyone to join with them at a Celebration of Life on Sunday, December 3, at 1 p.m. at the Cape Rey Carlsbad Hilton Resort, 1 Ponto Road, Carlsbad. The weekend coincides with what would have been Donna and Glenn Bechthold’s 47th wedding anniversary.