Christmas has always been Betty Roe's favorite time of year

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Betty Roe said she does not call herself an angel. Her friends and family would disagree with her. Mrs. Roe does not even realize how many lives she has touched in her 81 years. She has been chosen as the 2008 Leachville Christmas Angel.

Betty Roe, Leachville Christmas Angel

A longtime Leachville resident, she was born on Sept. 4, 1927, to Welzie Houchin and Emma Canzada Smith Houchin. She was raised in the Bunny community located six miles from Caraway. She was the youngest child of the family.

She never knew one of her brothers, Silas, who died when he was two years old. Other siblings include Paul, who died in 2005; Urban who died in the 1950s; Ruby Ann who died at the age of 19; and Dora Lee Lowery of San Antonio, Texas.

"I don't remember my dad," she said. "He died when I was nine months old at the age of 25 with heart failure. My mother died with tuberculosis when I was nine years old but I remember her well. I know from personal experience how important that early training is for children."

Mrs. Roe's brother, Paul, was 20 years older than she. When their dad died, Paul returned from Michigan to help with the family. Later her mother and sister, Ruby Ann, both developed tuberculosis.

"In those days, tuberculosis was like leprosy," she said. "We had friends in the country who helped us out by bringing food and a good friend, Mary Meadows, made clothes for me. Mother and Ruby Ann were in the bed together, both sick. Ruby Ann died first, then my mother."

The older Mrs. Roe gets, the more appreciative she is of her brother.

"My brother Paul raised me," she said. "He kept me out of the orphanage. The older I get the more I realize he sacrificed a lot. I always worked hard because even at a young age, I did not want to be a burden."

Mrs. Roe picked cotton, chopped cotton, weighed cotton, milked cows and slopped hogs.

"I was willing to do whatever was needed to help," she said.

"Christmas was the main part of our year," she said. "It was number one in our family. We looked forward to it."

She laughed about her and her sister getting a red wagon.

"One or the other one would get a red wagon each year. At first we were excited about that wagon but we wore it out in one year carrying wood to the house," she said. "My mother had beautiful Carnival Glass and we only used it when the minister was visiting or special occasions like Christmas. I can remember Mother getting upset because Santa filled her glasses with candy. We were a little scared for Santa that year."

Mrs. Roe started her education at Shaw Farm, a country school. She went there until she was in the sixth grade. She went to Caraway Central High School in the seventh through the 10th grades and graduated from Lepanto High School in 1947.

"A lot of people, especially girls, did not have the opportunity to finish high school in those days," she said. "I was fortunate. During my last few months of high school, I taught in a country school. I saved my money to go to beauty school."

She said she didn't know exactly when she decided to go to beauty school but she knew she was ready to get out of the fields. She had an aunt who lived in Blytheville and her plans were to stay with her and go to school. She had enough money saved from her teaching.

She shared a secret with her aunt in Blytheville. She was one of the very few people Mrs. Roe told she had married Fines Roe a few months before she graduated from high school.

They married in 1947. They had known each other most of her life. Her brother, Paul, married Mr. Roe's sister. Mr. Roe had served in the Army for three years. He came home to decide if he wanted to stay in or get out.

"While he was home, World War II was declared and he was called back and he remained in the Army until the war ended," she said. "He was wounded three times. We married after he returned from the Army."

He was nine years older than Mrs. Roe.

When she finished her beauty school training, she worked in Caraway first for Josephine Wilson.

"She was good to me," Mrs. Roe said. "I had worked shampooing for her on weekends. Once I got out of school, she wanted me to work in her place so she could have a vacation. I worked for her about three years before moving to Leachville."

She worked for Ivl Kiefner for several years before buying one of her two shops and going into business for herself. She was a hair dresser for over 15 years.

She can remember when a shampoo and set went from 75 cents to $1 and her customers thought it was awful. She also remembers the beauty shops were full and some days she would work until 3 a.m.

"I went on the road with my husband," she said. "He went to work for Mr. Short at Florafax National Florist Directory and I traveled with him for about a year. It was like a long vacation for me traveling from Maine to New Mexico and places in-between."

She decided to stay home, bought a drug store and worked there while Mr. Roe traveled with his job. She later opened Mid-Town Shopping Center in the old Weinburg store building in Leachville.

They never had children of their own, but both had nieces and nephews they loved.

Mrs. Roe also worked with the Girl Scouts.

"Those girls are all grown up now but they will always be my girls," she said. "They called me Miss Betty."

The Roes started building their home in 1957 and moved into it in 1958.

"Fines loved this home and we worked hard to get it," she said. "The payments went up to $139 a month and we thought it was awful, but we struggled through."

Mr. Roe died in 2005. The couple was married almost 60 years.

Mrs. Roe is a long-time member of the First Baptist Church in Leachville.

"My husband accepted the Lord before he passed away and I am grateful for that," she said.

Mrs. Roe said she has had a good life and wouldn't change a thing.

"I've met many wonderful people in my life," she said. "I had fun picking cotton, I had fun chopping cotton, I had fun feeding the horses, I had fun selling Avon, and I had fun fixing hair. Whatever I was doing, I had a good time with it."

Last year on Mrs. Roe's 80th birthday she was surprised with a birthday party. Her friends, Rick and Sue Alexander, found out she had never had a birthday party and they hosted a party in her honor.

Mrs. Roe said she has seen a lot of changes in her 81 years from pin curls to rollers to blow dryers.

She was among the crowd who attended Elvis Presley's show when he performed in Leachville.

"That was before he became famous," Mrs. Roe said. "I can remember after the show Dub Childress said, 'That boy is going to make something.' Dub was right."

Mrs. Roe said she still looks forward to Christmas each year. She plans on spending it with a niece and other family members.

"I have been blessed," she said.

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