Peak Back: Women in History
Join us as we take a “peak” back to explore the rich history of Carson Valley.
Celebrating Women’s History Month we are highlighting local Basque legend Grace Berhains.
Grace was born in Bidarray, France on October 3, 1901. She emigrated to the US as a teenager, not knowing any English. She settled in Gardnerville where she worked in a hotel and as a cook on a ranch. She learned to read, write and speak English fluently, became an American citizen, and went on to own several businesses.
Grace and her family owned the Wellington Bar, in Wellington, NV, and raised two daughters. Known for her cooking, anyone who happened to be there at mealtime wanted to taste her basque-style cooking.
In the years after moving back to Gardnerville in the late 1940’s Grace cooked at the Pyrenees Hotel, Overland Hotel, Carson Valley Country Club and the JT Bar. She was well known throughout the area for her wonderful Basque dinners and trained several locals, who later became skilled cooks in Basque restaurants.
Working as a waitress in one of the local Basque restaurants was the first job for many young Carson Valley girls. Grace served as a role model of tenacity, determination and discipline, not only to her daughters and grandchildren but also to these young girls. She always impressed upon them her core values: that everyone was to be treated with kindness and respect regardless of their position in life. She taught them that through hard work and kindness to other people, a woman could achieve success in any endeavor.
Grace was very strong willed. If a customer became rude, loud or unruly, she was the first one out of the kitchen to settle things down. If a customer gave the waitress or any of her grandchildren trouble when they were working, she would immediately show the customer the door.
A hard worker and very organized woman, Grace could cook dinner for 300 people, see that it was properly served, make sure the kitchen and dining room were clean and in order, then walk out of the kitchen with her makeup in tact, not a hair out of place, and a smile on her face for everyone.
Carson Valley has always been known for the strong family ties, hard working ethics and kindness of its people, especially the women.
By Helen Chappell, Grace’s daughter.
Original essay submitted to the Douglas County Historical Society.
Edited for length and content.