In 1926, Betty Olmsted entered this world into a less-than-ideal situation, but anyone who knows her story can certainly say she’s made the most of what she was given, and even what she wasn’t given. Born to parents who married but never lived together, Betty’s upbringing was tumultuous under the abusive reign of her stepfather. She was told she’d never amount to anything, that she was ‘worthless.’ But Betty proved them wrong: again, and again, and again.
“I worked my fool head off. I ended up being valedictorian at Elk County school in 8th grade, but I wasn’t allowed to go on to high school,” said Betty. “My stepfather wouldn’t even drive me to give my valedictorian speech, but a neighbor lady took me.”
It’s this determination that drove Betty on and gave her the courage to make the difficult choice to leave home at 16.
“My mom and stepfather fought constantly. They were miserable, and I wasn’t going to let them make me miserable. I moved to Parsons at 18 and started working at KOP Ordnance Plant,” said Betty.
Betty’s career path later took her to beauty school, and she had a salon out of her home for 13 years.
“My husband, Dick, was a truck driver, and we’d just adopted our daughter. I realized that if something happened to him out on the road, I’d have nothing. I didn’t want to have to go on welfare, so I decided to go to beauty school.”
But even getting into beauty school proved difficult for Betty. Once again, she faced an obstacle to climb.
“I applied for beauty school at Pittsburg State University, and the lady told me it was pointless since I didn’t have my GED. I applied anyway. I got the call, and they let me in! And at the age of 35, I took my state boards and got the highest score ever!”
Betty and her husband later got into the auction business, which she retired from at age 71 in 1997, after he passed in 1995. One would think that after overcoming all of the obstacles life threw at her, and finding success not only in school, but in her career, Betty would have been satisfied. But there was one more hurdle she wanted to clear.
“I decided to get my GED at age 65. One of my favorite sayings is, ‘Don’t sit on the pity pot. The choice is yours, whether you let life make you or break you.'”
Betty has certainly chosen to make the most of her life and is a shining example to others who want to continue pursuing their education—whether it’s an easy road or not.
“I’m grateful to now be here at Presbyterian Manor. I hope the young people here appreciate their own health, and how it allows them to care for us. We sure appreciate them being so dedicated to keeping us comfortable."
And we’re grateful Betty is here, too.