Why the fuss? 71-year-old GED graduate wants to know

What’s all the commotion?

That’s what Betty Smith wanted to know when she was called for an interview about the completion of her GED program at LBCC.

The fact that she’s 71-years-old and completing her high school degree program doesn’t seem to matter to the mother of eight.

Friday night, 55 years after she left high school in Neosho, Mo. to wed a GI from Oregon she’d known only a week, Betty Smith was one of 35 Sweet Home persons to complete their GED program and be recognized at an LBCC ceremony on the main campus in Albany.

“She’s a delight,” Glenda Hopkins the East Linn GED coordinator said of Smith. “She has dealt with a lot of pain in her life but has a terrific sense of humor. She’s willing to try almost anything. She didn’t get her driver’s license until a year ago.”

When Smith sets her mind to something, she gets it done.

In the summer of 1945, she met a then 22-year-old GI named Harry David Smith who was on convalescent leave from the European theater. Her mother had died when Smith was five years old and she was reared by her aunt and uncle. She was visiting her father in Kansas when the two met.

The shared 54 years of marriage until Harry died of cancer last year. He worked in sawmills throughout Oregon, retiring from Champion in 1985.

The couple lost a son to cancer but their remaining seven offspring live within easy driving distance of their mother, who moved to Sweet Home eight years ago. Ralph and Bill live in Albany, Roger, Betty and Kenneth live in Lebanon and Anita and Connie live in Bend.

Smith has 18 grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

“I don’t believe parents should live right on top their children,” Smith said. “It’s nice to be able to see each other but not to live right next door.”

While Smith was working with the Green Thumb program, she became ill. During her recovery period, she decided it was time to finish up her high school degree, something she had wanted to do for many years.

“I started in February and finished the second week of May,” Smith said.

Mrs. Hopkins suggested that Smith might put her skills to work at the East Linn Musuem, a post that now takes up 34 hours of her time each week.

“I’m the assistant office manager,” Smith said. “I greet people and do some typing.”

Smith has taken a couple computer classes to improve her skills.

“I like it,” she said of her new job. “I’m not a great typist but I’m working at it. I didn’t know anything about computers…but that’s coming along thanks to Jean Ott.”

Smith spent her life raising her family.

“I loved doing things with the kids,” she said. “I loved playing outside with them.”

Smith said religion is an important part of her life. She attends the Highway 20 Church of Christ.

It was her late husband who insisted that Smith get her driver’s license. He knew that cancer was getting the better of him and didn’t want Smith depending on others for transportation.

“He made me get by learner’s permit but for the first week he wouldn’t go out driving with me. He kept saying the pavement was too wet. I finally told him I’d never drive in Oregon if I waited for it not to rain,” Smith said with a laugh.

Smith enjoys embroidery, making latch hook rugs and quilts. She’s working on two wedding ring quilts right now.

Smith said she was inspired by the young persons she met in the GED program.

“I was scared to death at first,” Smith said. “They are good kids. Their language wasn’t what you’d want at first. I consider it an honor to be accepted by them. The GED program is important for people of all ages. It’s important for handicapped kids or kids, who for one reason or another, aren’t able to stay in the high school. I really enjoyed working with them.”

Smith said her children are “on cloud nine” about her success.

“A big part of my church is also excited,” she said with a laugh.

“I just don’t understand what all the fuss is about,” she added.