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Betsy Phillips elegantly enters her 105th year

Ruth Haferkamp

Special to the Village News

Betsy Phillips turns 105 years young this year on the 13th of May. It has been such a great pleasure to get to know Betsy throughout the last five years, having first interviewed her in her home on the occasion of her 100th year birthday celebration. Often when I think of this delightful lady, I am reminded of that lovely song "Maria" from the "Sound of Music" and the lyrics, "How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"

Throughout the years, I have listened to many stories. I remember asking, what advice would you like to share looking back on the years? Betsy said, "Always give people a second chance. There are many dangers and many joys along the path of life. We each have our own path. With God you take your joys and sorrows."

Betsy was born in Kansas City, Missouri, a very tumultuous time in world history, during WWI. Betsy had a 4 year old brother and three half-siblings. Betsy explained that when she was only 7 months old, her mother passed away from a burst appendix. So Betsy, under these dire circumstances, was given to her father's sister, Aunt Della May.

Betsy's dear Aunt Della replaced the mother she lost. She lived with her aunt and her grandma throughout her schooling years. There were no young children around as she was growing up. When children would complain about going to school, Betsy on the other hand loved school, and one of the reasons being she had the opportunity to interact socially with the other students.

A happy memory of dear Aunt Della is on the occasion of her birthday, when she went to check her appearance in the bathroom mirror and said out loud, "so that is what a 100 year old lady looks like, I never saw one before!" Aunt Della lived to be 102 years old.

Aunt Della also had a great sense of humor, she would always say, " I am the happiest person in this family, and the question was asked, why do you say that, well my dear I never married! Betsy was a very fortunate young girl, growing up with her Grandma and Aunt Della, the two women who were dedicated to molding and nurturing her, as she blossomed into a young and very determined woman.

Betsy at the age of 16 had the opportunity to attend the University of Arkansas Junior College. As of course, the time slot was still during the Great Depression, Betsy contacted her father for a $50 a month guarantee, required and ensuring that he would be able to afford the tuition. She still remembers with great excitement when her father's cable arrived saying that "Yes" it would be affordable.

At 16, Betsy was the youngest student in her class. Her chemistry lab student teacher, John Phillips, was 24 years old. They kept in contact and, 10 years later, John and Betsy happily married. When John Sr. was stationed with the U.S. Army in Frankfurt, Germany, their first child, John Jr. (now deceased), was born. Their second and third children, Carolyn and Dennis, were born in the U.S.A.

Betsy, having taught school for five years prior to her marriage, said, "I loved being a mother and wife."

John Sr. was involved in the transport business and had his own short haul company. There was a time when they were stationed in Toledo, Ohio. During a fierce blizzard blowing outside, they both abruptly agreed, "We can't go through another winter." They began house hunting and found the perfect spot in Fallbrook, overlooking the golf course. John Sr. loved to golf. Betsy loved to play tennis and found excellent courts in Vista. Together they lived many happy years together until John Sr.'s passing over 20 years ago.

Both of Betsy's children have kindly shared their comments with me. Daughter Carolyn shared, "My mother is a force of nature. She is intelligent, independent and kind. She taught me the joy and importance of nurturing relationships with family and friends. How blessed we are for this wonderfully delightful woman, on the occasion of her 105th celebration. My mother survived with grit and determination the pandemic and its persistent isolation. She continues to cultivate new friendships and old alike with her vibrant enthusiasm, while keeping a competitive edge when beating her daughter at ping-pong! She refuses to let her age define her. I am one lucky girl to claim Betsy as my mother."

Son Dennis shared, "She was an attentive mom. She let us find our own trouble and figure out how to deal with it. When we were older, she gave us every opportunity to better ourselves, without pushing her own ambitions on us. I've always been grateful for that."

Dennis continued on turning 105, "I think it's my mom's competitive spirit that keeps her going. She has committed herself to stay fit and independent. As an example, not long ago mom was at a luncheon with a group of ladies 30-40 years younger. They wanted to hear about her daily exercise routine – which maybe didn't impress some of the girls – prompting mom to challenge her hostess to a plank holding contest (a floor exercise where you balance on elbows and toes holding your torso rigid like a plank). Naturally mom won with a time of 2 minutes. "I can't 'hold a plank' for 2 minutes.105!"

Betsy, a very independent woman, still drives her own car, does the grocery shopping, cooks, and drives to church each week. She has lived and will continue to live a happy and contented life. This young woman at heart, knows how to love, how to pray, appreciate her religion, and to keep her mind stimulated.

Betsy believes, "God has given us a great gift, he gives us a youthful heart. We don't age past 18 in our feelings, we feel young and energized. Do not talk about your age, live!"

Betsy at the end of our interview said, I am sorry dear the time has passed so quickly, I must now get ready to drive to my hair appointment this afternoon." So many more stories to come, which we will keep until our next interview, in 2023.


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