Betty Law insisted she didn’t want a party.
She said that for her 90th birthday, too, but her daughter Dianne Dunsmore knew better. So, when it came time for Betty’s 100th celebration, …
Betty Law insisted she didn’t want a party.
She said that for her 90th birthday, too, but her daughter Dianne Dunsmore knew better. So, when it came time for Betty’s 100th celebration, Dianne wasn’t all that surprised that, again, when she said she didn’t want a party.
As it turned out, the celebration started at the knitting club that meets on Wednesdays at the Conimicut Library. Dianne, and members of the Dunsmore family who had flown in earlier from San Diego, showed up for the occasion.
In preparation, library staff and members of the club rearranged tables and spread festive table cloths anchored by a bouquet and a cake. They fretted over where Betty should sit and in what kind of chair. They needn’t have worried. When Betty breezed in with Dianne and her clan, she wasn’t going to sit, at least not right away. She clasped the extended hands of club members, greeted them and protested this was too much of a fuss.
She won’t admit it, but Betty is a party girl.
The grand event was a birthday breakfast buffet held Saturday at the Tri City Elks Lodge 14. Members of the extended family planned different aspects of the event from tracking down friends to arranging for the caterer, mailing invitations, decorations and even blowing up balloons on either side of gold helium filled numerals rising above a seat for Betty that became the focus for group photos.
Betty has outlived two husbands. Betty and the late Raymond Blanchard who died in 1973 are the parents of two children, Dianne and Ron. Betty later married Jesse Law, who died in 1997.
Betty was thrilled with the event.
Dianne pointed to friends and family across the room. Taking a break from her plate of scrambled eggs, pancakes, bacon and hash browns, Betty looked up and from a distance the subject would wave as Dianne made sure Betty knew who it was. Betty waved back.
That was between bites of breakfast. Most connections were more personal. She got hugs and kisses. Stories were shared and countless pictures taken.
Betty has had a lifetime of bringing people together. She retired from the New England Telephone Co. where she worked as an operator in the Warwick Neck substation until it closed. It was a time before dial phones and she physically made the connection with a jack. When there was no longer the need for operators, Betty worked as a lunch aide for Warwick schools. She led an active life and continues to do so.
She and the family were regulars at Meadowbrook Bowling. She was a member of the St. Kevin Choir up until the pandemic brought an end to in-person events. But Covid didn’t bring an end to other activities. In addition to the library knitting club whose members confess there’s more gabbing than knitting, she’s a member of the Gaspee Seniors and the Happy Hoofers – the senior tap dance group that performs on special occasions at the Pilgrim Senior Center. Hoofers were at the breakfast and joined Betty to show off some leg for a group photo.
Betty lives alone in the house her grandfather built on Little Pond not far from Veterans Middle School. Her neighbor Gisela Meyn was among the celebrants. She recalled how she and Betty attended a community meeting hosted by the University of Rhode Island more than 35 years ago. The university was looking for volunteers to take weekly samples in area ponds and lakes from May until October. Gisela and Betty signed up and for 21 years they paddled out on Little Pond to record the water temperature and collect vials of water to be tested as their part in the URI Water Watch program. Finally, when it became too much for them to do they tried to recruit successors.
As Betty tells the story, neighbors were aghast to learn they had been doing this for all these years, but none were willing to make the commitment. The testing came to an end.
“It was always good enough to swim,” Gisela recalls for all the years they kept watch over the pond.
The breakfast party lasted well into the afternoon with people circulating between tables to look at family album photos that had been blown up and contained information on who was pictured and when and when it had been taken. Betty remained the star, mingling among friends and family and frequently being pulled away to pose beneath the golden 100 balloons with another gathering.
Will there be another party? That’s the plan for the 105th. Betty is sure to argue that’s not necessary, but if the 105th is anything like the 100th she’ll love it.
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