CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's nothing spectacular about her life, but she has lived it with distinction, in a salt-of-the-earth, never-met-a-stranger way. Her caring, homespun demeanor suited a long nursing career that started with wartime cadet training.
Proud widow of a Normandy invasion veteran, she contributed to a room in his honor at the veterans transitional living center on Leon Sullivan Way. Residents there call her "Miss Betty."
She and her husband were avid square dancers and followed the circuit all over the place. Other travels included a sentimental journey to Normandy.
A breast cancer survivor still active in her cancer support group, she has participated in dozens of cancer walks and has a T-shirt quilt to prove it.
She is a former West Virginia Mother of the Year.
The world could use a lot more people like 86-year-old Betty Young.
"My father drowned when I was 11. His car went in the river. They didn't find him for a couple of days. My mom had to go to work in a department store in Glenville to raise us.
"I'll never forget the night the minister knocked on the door and told us that daddy was in the river. It was a terrible February snowstorm and the roads were bad. There were no heaters in the cars. He had on galoshes and a heavy winter coat and couldn't get out.
"Between my junior and senior year in high school, I worked at the soda fountain at the Rexall drug store in Glenville. I made 25 cents an hour.
"They had a picture on the wall of a nurse in a dress uniform. I called the West Virginia Nurses Association here in Charleston and asked if I could go as a cadet nurse because Mom didn't have the money to send me to nursing school.
"We took the bus to Clarksburg to St. Mary's Hospital and the director of nurses said her class was full for September. I called McMillan Hospital. The director said her September class was full but she had room for me in June. That started two weeks after I graduated from high school.
"I was in nursing almost 40 years, and I loved it. The training was wonderful. We were on the floor in student uniforms in six weeks. We had a lot of coal miners as patients. They had a lot of injuries.
"They took in a new nursing class every six months because it was during the war, and they were getting short of nurses. The government paid for our tuition, uniforms, books, room and board. If the war had still been going on when we graduated, we were committed to working three years in a government hospital or in the service.
"We wore blue uniforms with a starched apron. Collars on the uniforms were so stiff we had to put Kleenex in our necks to keep from getting sore. In six months, you got your cap, a real distinction. When you were a senior, you got a black band across your cap.
"The war was over by the time I graduated. I stayed at McMillan. I was in charge on the maternity floor, OB, labor and delivery. That was my favorite floor. You never ceased to get a chill and a 'Thank you, Lord' when you got a healthy baby and a healthy momma. Childbirth is still a miracle to me.
"I met Ross when he came home from the war. He went in on D-Day on Omaha Beach. You know that 97 percent of the first wave got killed. His men went in on the second wave, and he didn't lose a single man.
"His mother had been a patient at McMillan. She had three strokes before the fourth one killed her. I took care of her. She said when her son came home from the war, she wanted him to meet me.
"One evening, I went in to answer her light. She said her son was out there, the one with the beautiful brown eyes. She called him "my little Ross." I went out the door with a bedpan in my hand and said, 'I guess you are her little Ross,' and went on about my business.