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With a dozen children, Betty Wright always had a big garden - and a heart for all

A Life Remembered

A Life Remembered

August 26, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Betty Leona Wright, who died Aug. 14 at the age of 83. Her obituary appeared in the Aug. 15 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

Within moments of arriving at Betty Wright's Fairview Road home, friends and well-wishers would be greeted with hugs and kisses from members of Betty's large and close family.

Then as if on cue, Betty's children would offer homemade peanut butter fudge or some other tasty treat whipped up on the occasion of her Aug. 14 passing at the age of 83.

It was only fitting, after all, since anyone who knew Betty knew it was impossible to leave her welcoming and loving home without something to eat - and she apparently passed that down to her children.

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"I remember mom baking biscuits in an old wood stove," said Helen Wright, the oldest of Betty's dozen children.

Times often were lean in those days in Betty's native West Virginia. Helen said there were a lot of beans and potatoes served up in Betty's kitchen.

"I often said I wouldn't eat either again, but I still love them both," Helen said.

The Wright family moved to Downsville in 1955 when daughter Jan Walling was 10. Her mother had a big garden in Hampshire County and started another one wherever she was living at the time.

In addition to raising 12 children, Betty also worked several jobs, including 13 years on the production line at H.J. Heinz in Chambersburg, Pa.

"She'd leave Heinz and then clean people's houses, falling asleep on the bus when she was coming home," Jan said.

But with all of her hard work, Betty always was there for her children, daughter Bonnie Meyers said.

The eighth of 12, Bonnie said she remembers her mother always bestowed a kiss goodnight at the end of each day.

"Even with all she did, mom had cookies and ice cream enough for all of us," Bonnie said. "She could always make us feel better."

Pat Wright said she and Helen usually ended up caring for the younger children while their mother was working. Pat was 31 in 1979 when their father died, and she said she became like another mother.

Bill Wright and his wife, Cathy, lived in the 10-room Wright family home in Chewsville for 23 years - they were upstairs and Betty was downstairs.

"We worked her garden for her, but she would come out and tell us how to do things and what to put where," Bill said. In later years, she continued to "advise" from the vantage point of her walker.

It was second nature for Bill, who said when he and his brothers were children, they were in charge of weeding their mother's garden.

Timmy Wright was the youngest of the Betty's children. He said he did some weeding as a youngster and later ran the tiller.

"My brothers and sisters took care of me," said Timmy, who was just 21 when his father died.

Dolores Atha said she was the fifth born, and eventually became the first of the Wright children to graduate from high school.

She said she made her mother proud when she got her diploma.

"I started college, but two months later, I eloped," Dolores said, dropping her mother's mood down a peg or two.

Twenty-five years later though, Betty told her son-in-law, Benny Atha, that he turned out to be a good son-in-law.

"Benny always said mom treated him like a son, not just a son-in-law," Dolores said.

Grandson Willie Curry said he always will remember how much Grandma loved having the grandchildren around her. Again, food played a big part in that relationship.

Betty was famous for her Sunday dinners, to which everyone was invited. As the family grew, "everyone" could no longer fit into the family dining room.

Around 1994, the family began getting together at rented halls for a combination Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration each year.

"It was great," Pat said.

At these family outings, Betty would make sure everyone got a Susan B. Anthony dollar - first members of the growing family, then even close friends.

"Mom kept a calendar with everybody's birthday - children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and some friends," daughter Debbie DuVall said.

Toward the end, others would buy the cards, but Betty always would make sure there were dollars in them.

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