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DOUGLAS MERRIAM

People We Love

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Benedicte Valentiner santafean.com

april/may 2019

S

anta Fean Benedicte Valentiner has lived a life of adventure. Born in Denmark, as a very young girl she experienced life in Copenhagen under Nazi rule. After completing her education in Denmark and Sweden, she gained professional experience in hotel and restaurant services in Denmark, Switzerland, and Scotland. In 1963, Valentiner jumped at the chance to emigrate to the United States when her father was transferred to Washington, D.C. Having applied for American citizenship, she continued her career in the hospitality industry when she landed a job at the city’s Shoreham Hotel. Marriage brought Valentiner to Santa Fe in 1976, where she worked as an assistant to the Minority Whip of the House of Representatives. By 1981, she was employed by U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici (R-NM). After a number of years of working in the Senate in Washington, D.C., she saw an opportunity to shift back into her area of expertise. A job as the manager of the official presidential guest house, Blair House, seemed too wonderful to think possible, but Valentiner submitted her application. The rest is history: the position was the culmination of her professional life. From 1988 to 2001, Valentiner was the general manager of Blair House. She tells the story in her 2011 memoir, Bedtime and Other Stories from the President’s Guest House, which describes her service to four presidents— Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. “Mrs. V” (as she was affectionately known) shares some of the behind-the-scenes antics of world leaders in her book. Each delegation brought with them specific needs or requirements, often creating unique problems for Valentiner’s staff. One repeat guest to Blair House was a particular prime minister. Aside from an arrogant, often nasty attitude, his morning breakfast tray was usually short pieces of silver upon its return to the kitchen. Valentiner also recounts the night that another head of state was discovered wandering the hallways of Blair House wearing only undershorts, very lost and very inebriated. While some guests were troublesome, others were lovely. Valentiner was so impressed by the Clintons’ generosity of spirit during their White House stay that she became a registered Democrat. President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, were particularly fond of Mrs. V’s attention to their needs, especially when grandchildren were on hand. The playful young ones were perhaps a threat to the order and beauty of the stately Blair House, but all was protected under Valentiner’s watchful eye. Valentiner’s parents often reminded her that one should always leave while the music is still playing. That is what she did, retiring in 2001 and returning to a very contented life in Santa Fe with her dachshunds. — R. Eric Gustafson

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Santa Fean Magazine April May 2019 | Digital Edition  

Santa Fean Magazine April May 2019 | Digital Edition  

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