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Businesswoman focuses on military tributes

POSTED: August 17, 2013 12:30 p.m.
Photo by Randy C. Murray/

Bette Wickham stands among the merchandise in her Bee's Creations.

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Most of Beate Wickham’s handcrafted artwork is seen only by friends and family members of those who’ve asked her to create something they can treasure as a memory of their military service or a memorial of their soldier.
Other items crafted by “Ms. Bee” are displayed publicly, like the memorial wall of soldiers’ nameplates inside the doorway of Walmart in Hinesville. Each nameplate on that memorial represents a soldier honored at Fort Stewart’s Warriors Walk. Wickham engraves the nameplates for free.
“They gave their lives,” Wickham said softly. “The least I can do is give them a nameplate.”
She said she cares about the military and military families because they are the heart of her business, the bulk of her customers. It was, in fact, a former 3rd Infantry Division assistant commanding general, Brig. Gen. Dale Rudolf Nelson, who persuaded her to start her own business.
After she presented him with a handmade gift, he challenged her to do more. For the next two weeks, she said, she worked nearly 24 hours a day making ornaments, plaques and memorial frames. During that time, she said she made more than $15,000, which convinced her she really could make a living doing what had been a hobby.  
“I never went to school to learn how to do this,” Wickham said. “I guess I have a natural talent for (arts and crafts). You could say I’m living the American dream because I worked myself up from making hand-painted crafts at the kitchen table (in 1996) to owning my own business (in 2004).”
She said many of her original customers still come back to her with requests for special crafts, such as an engraved unit crest, framed guidon, acrylic plaque or personalized ornament.
Wickham said she has been around the military for more than 22 years. Born in Germany, the shop owner came to Hinesville with her soldier-husband in 1996. Though she and her husband parted ways after 17 years, Wickham said her love for Hinesville and the military community lives on in the work she does.
“I try to do things that others don’t,” she said. “I create things you cannot find anywhere else.”
She said most of that work is done with a laser engraver, a mat-board cutter and an embroidery machine. Erica Parks and Allison Taylor assist Wickham with her crafts and managing sales.
Some of the more unique crafts she’s created include Christmas ornaments like the one she made for Vietnam Veterans of America, and 3D wood carvings of unit crests. She related how she made Christmas ornaments for the VVA to honor Georgia veterans who were killed in Vietnam.
The largest craft she ever made was for an infantry unit that lost six soldiers at one time. She said that framed memorial was the same size she is. Her most sentimental memorial craft, though, was one for a soldier she knew.
“He was a captain, a very friendly person who used to come in here a lot,” Wickham said. “I knew he was going over there, so when his wife came by one day, I asked her how he was doing. She told me he had just been killed the day before. I’m a very personable person, so we both broke down and cried.”
She said she deeply felt that wife’s loss, so she put her heart into the memorial she made for the soldier.
For more information about Bee’s Creation Inc., go to www.beescreations.net.

 

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