"That's how it started. We got married after I graduated. He worked at DuPont. When I was working, he was home with the kids. I worked the 11 to 7 shift two or three nights a week for about 20 years.
"Patients are sicker at night. You lose more patients at night, but you don't have a lot of visitors, and you don't have doctors making rounds. I couldn't have gotten through night shift without some wonderful LPNs.
"In 1971, when my last child went to college, I was hired at the health department. I had worked night duty so long, when I didn't have to go to work on Christmas night, my kids didn't know how to act.
"I worked there 17 and a half years. The first nine years, I made home visits. It was harder, but I loved it. Do you know Amandaville in St. Albans? One of my friends said, 'You don't go to Amandaville, do you?' I did have patients over there. This one man in Amandaville, he had this beautiful expensive hospital bed in a chicken coop. He lived in a chicken coop.
"People in the community knew I was there to help them. I never had anybody who wasn't polite. I always had my uniform on and had my black bag with everything in it I needed.
"I retired 26 years ago when I was 60. They no longer have home health services.
"The year of the 50th anniversary of D-Day, Tom Holcomb and his wife and Ross and I went with a busload of veterans to London where they were before they went in before D-Day. Then we crossed the channel to Cherbourg and went up to Normandy and to the cemetery. I cried.
"We met one lady in the cathedral in London. She told the men that she saw the ships leaving and prayed because she knew they were somebody's son or somebody's husband and wanted them to get home safely.
"Almost five years ago, they built the new shelter for veterans on Leon Sullivan Way. They had a picture in the paper showing them laying the footers. The story said to call if you were interested in donating money to furnish a room. I was the first one to call. It was $1,000. To me, that's money. I just have my Social Security, a little pension from the health department and a little from my husband from DuPont.
"They named the room for my husband. I was down there yesterday to check on them and see what they needed. We had a dinner at church Sunday and had a lot of bread left over. I gave half of it to the veterans' house and the rest to the men at the Roark-Sullivan shelter. They all call me 'Miss Betty.'
"The year my last child went to WVU, my son was dating a girl whose parents square danced. He wanted us to go with them to learn. My husband said he would go but he wouldn't dance. They got him on the floor, and he never sat down at a dance for 11 years. The theory is if you go to a square dance for three hours, it's the same as walking three miles. And it's a lot more fun.
"We went to 10 nationals. We even danced at Disneyland in California. They shut everything down at midnight and we danced until 1 a.m. We went to Portland and Birmingham and Louisville and Houston.
"My oldest son flew for TWA. We had some wonderful trips on his vouchers. We went to Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, London twice, Paris twice. Went to Hawaii with 100 square dancers and danced on three islands.
"We came back from Alaska on a Sunday evening after a 15-day trip, and my phone was blinking and it was the radiology department at Memorial. I had a mammogram right before I left. They needed to redo my mammogram. The doctor put my film up to view just as I stepped behind him. I said, 'My God, doctor, I have breast cancer!' As a retired nurse, I'd seen enough of those to know what I was looking at.
"I was devastated. That was 1996. They gave me a choice between lumpectomy or mastectomy. I said, 'Take it off.' I took chemo and refused radiation. I'm blessed. I get up every morning and put my feet on the floor and thank God. If I'm in town, I do the cancer walks. I had a quilt made out of my T-shirts. I still go to my cancer support group.
"I don't go because I feel like I still need moral support. I go because it breaks my heart to see the young girls 35 and 40 who are raising kids who have breast problems.
"Three weeks after my surgery, my first Sunday back in church, my husband had a massive heart attack. They did bypass surgery and he died three weeks later. That was a very hard winter. I was taking chemo, and he was gone.
"I said to myself, 'Betty, there are a lot of people worse off than you are. You've got a house you paid for. A car that's paid for, kids that are great, and you are blessed.'"Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.