Miss Betty Maples left Albany in 1966. She had a station wagon full of children but not much else. Tommy, her oldest, was 15. Her youngest, Michael, had just turned two. Rudy, Marcia, Ann, and Kirby were scattered between the bookends.
The road to Pinehurst was paved with uncertainty. Her house was too small for seven people and she didn’t have a job. But she had three things of value that can’t be bought – faith, love, and determination.
“I’ve been in a lot of valleys and the Lord pulled me through,” she said. I told her, as I have before, how much I admire her. She responded, as she always does, with modesty.
“I had some good children,” she said, giving them credit for doing more than she should have expected.
I don’t know much about her valleys and she doesn’t care to dwell on them. What I do know, however, is that she speaks honestly about having good children. Rudy and I were in class together at Pinehurst Elementary. Tommy was just ahead of us, and Marcia not far behind. Those were the three I knew best while growing up. I added Ann, Kirby, and Michael to my friends from the Maples’ tree a few years later.
Miss Betty’s family now includes twelve grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. I don’t know many from the two younger generations, but I have no doubt that strong gene of goodness has been passed down the line.
Betty Jean Speight was born just north of Pinehurst on Nov. 14, 1930. She graduated from Pinehurst High School in 1947, then went to Middle Georgia College in Cochran. She worked a couple of years with the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service before marrying Serell Maples. They first lived in Moultrie, moved to Pinehurst, and then to Albany. Two years later she and their six children returned to her hometown.
Miss Betty found part-time work seven days a week at the Pinehurst Post Office, and soon added a full-time job at Middle Georgia Electric Membership Corporation. For 15 years she worked both places while managing a household that was busier than most. She retired from Middle Georgia E.M.C. as secretary to the president after 29 years.
When I was a kid the only things that I knew about Miss Betty were what I could see. She was real pretty, always pleasant, and had a lot of children. I got to know her much better during my five years of working at Rooney Bowen Chevrolet. She negotiated several car purchases for her family.
She’d give Rooney and me a one-sentence lecture each time. “You all know that I’m going to trade with you, but I mean you better treat me right!” Her warnings always came with a disarming smile. We’d laugh as we promised to take good care of her, but we made sure to keep our promises.
During those years at the Chevrolet dealership, I began to realize what an exceptional woman and mother Miss Betty was. She balanced work and family beautifully, relying on faith, inspired by love, and loaded with determination. When I changed careers, she continued to be my customer, banking with me for 35 years. She still smiled when she occasionally told me that I better treat her right, and I still laughed when I promised her that I would.
I asked Marcia what life was like from a child’s view. The first thing she said was how thankful she is to have been raised in a Christian home. The Maples children didn’t have to wonder where they would be on Sunday mornings or nights, or during Wednesday prayer meetings. Their frequent trips down Oak Avenue to Pinehurst Baptist Church left a trail of faith that’s still evident.
Marcia told me about a cherished Christmas tradition in which her mother has them hold hands for prayer before anyone opens a present. Marcia continued that practice with her children, and now it’s being taught to the next generation. St. Nicholas would no doubt agree that “Prayer Before Presents” is a simple yet remarkable reminder of what’s important.
I first admired Miss Betty for what she did, then I came to love her for who she is. She was a bit reluctant to have a column written about her, but good stories need to be shared.
I laughed when I promised to write something she would be pleased with, while knowing that promise would be easy to keep. There’s a lot to be said for faith, love, and determination, and there’s a big loving family from Pinehurst that proves it. It shows what can happen when three strong virtues come beautifully wrapped in the same package.