O'Fallon Progress

Local community advocate gives Superwoman a run for her money

Beth Ortega.
Beth Ortega.

O’Fallon resident’s name Beth Ortega is synonymous with Superwoman. That’s right. She could be mistaken for a local superhero — giving the iconic female rolemodel a run for her money.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree, Ortega followed in the footsteps of her successful and service-minded parents, Don and Linda Spradling, both of whom have “always served our community and excelled at their careers, in different ways. My Mom spent many years as a very successful businesswoman. She did it while leading a loving, fun home for not only my brother and I, but also the dozens of our friends that called her Mom and still do to this day, 30 years later!”

She went on, “And my Dad, he is the definition of service above self. He would fix someone’s air condition in exchange for a homemade apple pie or an old T.V. set. He took care of his customers first, with no concern of what it brought for him financially. He did good for a reasonable price and still managed to donate time and energy to those less fortunate. He is a great role model for doing the right thing and that always pays off in ways even better than finances!”

While in her earlier years at O’Fallon Township High School, Ortega was classmates with John Wilt, who later went on to become a 1rst Lieutenant of the U.S. Marin Corps. Wilt was tragically killed in a plane crash in 2002 while training for missions in preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Remembering him fondly, Ortega helped his parents co-create the John Wilt Foundation

Dragonfly Secrets boutique and restaurant in downtown O’Fallon, which specialized in soups, sandwiches and desserts, was Ortega’s first business venture after higher education at Marine State University of Kentucky and Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Mo.

“I actually was studying in social work, which I don’t do today. I participated in a business management program for small businesses, and at some point found myself in an appraisal course, which I loved,” Ortega said. “So I ended up circling back because I’ve always loved housing advocacy and realty, plus I can’t sit at a desk all day — I would probably go crazy.”

Ortega describes a memory with her aunt dating back to early childhood, which she said spurred her love of the world of realty.

“My Aunt shoved me through the window of a vacant house she wanted to see when I was about five. I've been hooked ever since. Who knew breaking and entering would result in a successful job within the boundaries of the law,” Ortega said.

There is so much it overwhelms my mind to try and think of one thing! Incredible generous love. He had this underlying sweetness about him that made everyone at ease, yet was a force -standing tall in his beliefs and in his service. He was also very mischievous! He and I were a bit of trouble together- anyone and everything was fair game for our pranks. I miss him every single day.

With hardtimes behind Ortega and her husband Jeff, an IT manager at Peabody Energy, having lost their eldest son Jeffrey, 18, in 2011 unexpectedly, Ortega keeps moving forward with positivity keeping her family first and also establishing her own branch of REMAXX Preferred realty company, located at 1668 Windham Way in O’Fallon, with her business partner Emily Greenstreet.

In March, Ortega was honored by the Shiloh based Realtor Association of Southern Illinois (RASI) with the Community Achievement Award, which is given to members who are making exceptional impact on the community through volunteer work.

“I am very proud of all the awards we've received from an awesome first year of the Beth Ortega Group at Re/Max Preferred, but this one certainly is the most special. I couldn't do all I do without my sidekick/ amazing buyers agent and incredible friend Emily Greenstreet,” Ortega said.

According to Kati Schwierjohn, RASI representative, Ortega’s list of community service is impressive as she’s helped creat and is the president of the John Wilt Foundation. Ortega also creating the Honor 5k run held each fall in St. Louis, Mo., which she spearheads, participates as a runner and raises over $10,000 a year for the United Service Organization (USO), Fisher House, the O’Fallon Veterans Memorial and a renewable scholarship for an OTHS graduating senior.

“She also serves on the planning-operations board for the Marine Week St. Louis event and works with the St. Louis Area Gold Star Mothers, Semper Fi Society and the Toys for Tots program. She and her fellow board members provide meals, funds and services as needed for the St. Louis Fisher House at the St. Louis Veteran’s Affairs Hospital,” Schwierjohn said.

Ortega’s actions within her community speak for themselves, Schwierjohn said.

“Beth also is a huge supporter of the O’Fallon District 90 music program — as co-creator and vice president of the Lifelong Music Program in the O’Fallon school, Title sponsor in Show Choir Showdown and Metro-East Marching Classic, individual band student sponsor through scholarships,” Schwierjohn said.

Menoring nonprofits looking to host 5k races, financial literacy advocate and teaching volunteer for local youth organizations, churches and community events, as well as volunteering and sponsoring local Shriner Hospital events, Ortega keeps on going, like the Engergizer Bunny.

Her children, Justin Ortega, 21, in the Army and is engaged to her future daughter in law Sam Jensen; Jackson Pikula, 18, who just graduated from OTHS; Jacob Ortega, 12; and a 16-month-old baby named Jake Santiago “Santi” Ortega; inspire her, Ortega said.

“They are my reason to live and my motivation. Now (if I were on a deserted island, I would want a photo with me but it’d) have to be poster size, because when you put us all together there’s easily 100 people just in the immediate cousins,” Ortega said.

Meet Beth Ortega:

Q: Do you have words to live by?

A: "Attention is the rarest and purse form of generosity"... I'm not one for motivational talks or dream boards or anything like that all, I just try to keep things simple and be happy. I give attention to everyone and everything- clients, community, family... and it has made for an incredibly successful life. I have no idea who said that quote, I still remember it from Mr. Sitzes, my high school English teacher.

Q:Whom do you most admire?

A: My Mom and Dad.

Q:If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?

A: Manoj Bhargava. His business successes are incredible, although he has had much controversy in it. However, what he has done with the money from it is unprecedented. He doesn't just write a check and call himself a philanthropist; he leads and funds many think tanks that are changing the world. Energy sources, clean water, medical inventions... Check him out- if everyone did just 5% of what he does with his funds... What an incredible gift. And I'd love to talk to him about everything, good and bad.

Q: What is the last book that you read?

A: I'm reading Team of Teams, General Stanley McChrystal, in my free two minutes each night. I love his thought process in efficiency in leadership. The last book I finished was Pajamajams to my 1-year-old trying to get him to sleep. It's pretty intense, lots of animals in pajamas dancing.

Q:What do you do for fun and relaxation?

A: I don't like downtime, so I stay very busy. I love when clients allow us to go in and stage and remodel- that is my relaxation! You can't sell ugly. For some reason they frown upon that as a tag line in business, but it is an undeniable fact of real estate. And seeing the results of even minimal work on a home is incredibly satisfying, personally and for the bottom line, which means it's fun too!

Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?

A: Incredibly clean. We use a paperless system for our contracts where everything is kept organized and easy for all parties to use, as well as other agents. It keeps my desk free of anything but my computer... and a few random keys or garage door openers!

Q:What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?

A: I wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter. 100 percent set on that dream... I still have hope.

Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?

A: I am smart and funny and proud of it. I am able to connect things incredibly quickly. It makes me great at my job and at serving our community. I know the who, the what, and the how which results in making it happen with little stress. Life's too short for such seriousness all the time.

Q: What irritates you most?

A: Laziness. On the job, in the community, playing sports, in facing change or when educating yourself on a topic... Get up, get dressed, and do something amazing. You don't always get another chance to play the game or to be something more than a sheep.

Q:What type of music do you listen to?

A: Anything and everything other than Justin Bieber and any of his whiney friends. I am perfectly okay with that costing me generation of buyer and sellers. Worth it.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: My clients and my colleagues, so I suppose I'd say the people as cheesy as that may seem. I absolutely love my people. My clients become family and we stay in contact long after the sale. I get texts or calls daily asking for the best restaurant to go to, what doctor is the best, where to take a car for repairs... and I love that my clients invite me to their kids birthday parties and other important family events. I have a very large extended family and my clients become a part of that too! I'll never give that up.

Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?

A: Selling real estate. No joke. I am a real estate addict.

Q: What would people be most surprised to know about you?

A: I was an appraiser first and a fair housing advocate. A little over ten years ago, I spoke with then Senator Barack Obama to get us help for Southern Illinois, and was able to make some improvements with the funds we received. I saw the bubble bursting from within, and helped create a coalition to try and stop it. I was one of the original board members of the Don't Borrow Trouble Campaign in St Louis, which eventually turned in the national Hope hotline for people at risk of losing their homes. I still work as a loss mitigation specialist for anyone that needs help.

Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?

A: Will Ferrell

Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?

A: A picture of my family. They are my reason to live and my motivation. Now it'd have to be poster size, because when you put us all together there's easily 100 people just in the immediate cousins.