Betty Buckley is a happy woman born in the South, raised in the North, and finally made it back home. She is one of the most positive, joyful people I have ever met. If I were given just one word to describe her, it would be either “unsinkable,” or “irrepressible.” Born in Hammond, VA in 1948, Betty grew up in a solid Midwestern home, and her father was the first to come down to Athens for work. Her mom soon followed, as did the rest of the family, and Athens is most definitely home. She did spend close to 30 years in Florida with her husband and raising her kids, but eventually everybody ended up here. “They came in waves,” she says of her tribe.
Betty married at the age of 15, and said with a twinkle in her eye, “I didn’t have to, either. It was just that back in 1963, that was pretty common, and really, all I ever wanted to be was a wife and mom. And, I stayed married to the same man!” I have a feeling that she was great in those most important roles, and when her kids were school age, she worked in the Yumatilla, FL school system as a teacher’s assistant, and got so good at it, that when a woman with whom she had worked was ill, the school specifically contacted her to take the class for a full month. The teacher said that she wouldn’t trust anyone else with her kids.
She lived in England for 5 years, has had a fascinating life, and then the time came when her full time occupation was caring for her mother until she passed. I asked her if she was with her mom at that moment, and her face shone as she said, “Oh, yes, we all were, and I know where she is.” Such are the many gifts when a family that loves each other is present for a “home going.” She told me that one of the blessings of having to become such an excellent caregiver for her mom was that it prepared her to face her own health challenges, which has been a pretty substantial undertaking. She has had rare, complex and extensive problems with her aorta, and really shouldn’t still be here, according to the statistics. “But, I have a job to do,” she said again with that infectious smile, and while she is currently still in a wheelchair, she is determined to walk again.
She raves about the care that she has gotten at Athens Rehab, and she has been here since March 31st. She was in a different facility, and on the last possible day of her care contract, a place opened up at Athens Rehab. “This is where I wanted to be. Everyone has been ‘super-duper.’ When I saw Washington Street from my window, I knew I was going to be ok.” The day we met, she had just gotten the news that an apartment had opened up which is exactly where she wanted to live, and her son and the rest of the family will be helping. I asked her if there was anyone she especially wanted to acknowledge at the Center, and she said, like the good mom she is, “Oh, yes. I already told them when I found out we were going to be doing this article. I didn’t want anyone to be left out, so what I am going to say here, is, ‘You know who you are.’”
We moved on to favorites.
Favorite Color? “Blue-green, or peacock. I like blue, I like green, so ‘peacock’ works best.”
Favorite food? “Spaghetti, my recipe I learned when I was a kid. It’s simple, and so good.”
Favorite movie? “Gone With The Wind.”
Favorite book? Not surprisingly, “Gone With The Wind.”
Favorite actor and actress? “Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
Favorite scripture? John 3:16. “I grew up in Camp Meetings and Vacation Bible School, and loved them.”
Favorite song? “Onward Christian Soldiers, and the Old Rugged Cross.” We took a couple of moments to sing, “And the Cross made the difference for me” before we moved on.
Favorite President? “JFK.”
Biggest change in her lifetime? “For good or bad, I would have to say the Internet.”
Advice to young people? “Appreciate everything you have, and everyone you know.”
Words of wisdom from a joyful warrior. And Miss Betty, we wish you the very best in your new place.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner