by Jo Anne King
It was my very great pleasure this week to interview a wonderful lady I first met in 1951 when I was a young teenager living with my family on Pine Drive across from the grocery store. Neither the store nor the house we lived in are there anymore, but Betty Wheeler Hooper still lives in the same charming house she did 'way back then'. Like many of the community's children I had made my trips to her house for first aid treatment and was very grateful for her compassion towards me.
Betty Hooper was born Betty Marie Richardson on December 18, 1919 in Silver Cliff, Colorado. When she was six years old she contracted rheumatic fever and was confined to bed for a year. She and her family then moved to Fowler hoping her health would improve, which it did. In 1938 she graduated from high school in Fowler, then studied nursing at Corwin Hospital in Pueblo, graduating from there in 1941. She says that initially she hoped to work on a newspaper, but all that changed when, as a senior in nursing school, she met Howard Wheeler, who was a pharmacist. In 1942 Betty and Howard were married by the Methodist Church minister in Howard's parents' home in Avondale.
Their son Bill was born in 1943. They then moved to Beulah to begin raising chinchillas. However, that was when the U.S. raised the embargo on Russia, so the bottom dropped out of the fur market. Howard then went to work in the Engineering Department of C.F. & I. In 1948 their daughter Martha was born. She is now the assistant Principal at Rye High School. After 43 years of marriage Howard Wheeler died in 1983. Two years ago, after 16 years of living as a widow, Betty Wheeler married Jimmie Hooper, himself a widower of seven years. Jimmie had been married 52 years and has two children. Betty & Jimmie were married in the Beulah Methodist Church where Betty has been a member since moving to Beulah.
Betty's eyes glowed as she shared with me about the wonderful holidays she and her large extended family of kids, grandkids, and one great-grandchild have in the home in Beulah. Thanksgiving time is shared with about 40 relatives who bring in a delicious assortment of their favorite foods to load down the long tables that are brought in. On the fourth of July about 70 people show up and begin a day-long celebration. Traditionally, the shooting off of their homemade cannon that was built by Howard Wheeler's father signals the beginning and the ending of the festivities (and there might be a few times in between, too.) Sadly, Betty's mom will not be with them this year as she died last year at the age of 101.
Betty also remembers the fun everyone had at the old Gay Way dance hall which was in the back of what will soon be opening up as Flag Mountain Grill. Whole families went there on Saturday night for what was usually harmless fun, although often some had a little to much to drink and had to be taken home by friends. (Designated drivers were around then, too.)
Another of Betty's favorite memories is of her daughter Martha's third year in high school when they had an exchange student from Sweden. Inger became Martha's very good friend during the year she lived with them. She is still a very good friend of the family, and comes here every two years to visit them when she is able to get away from her dental research projects. When Betty's husband Howard died she went to Sweden to spend 9 days with Inger. When Betty's children were young she did a variety of sewing projects as a hobby, but now she spends a lot of time traveling with her new husband Jimmy, who openly adores her. They will be traveling to Arlington, Texas soon to attend the dedication ceremony of a park there that will be named for Jimmy and his late wife Mary in gratitude for so much community work they did there in years past. Betty's glowing comments to me about how blessed she feels to have lived in Beulah, and how it is such a wonderful place to raise children, are a clear reflection of her positive attitude about life in general. In return, may I say that this community has been truly honored to have such a loving, giving precious lady in it all these years.
The above story appeared in June, 2000 issue of The Beulah Banner.