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Street Talk

Betty Ruth ‘Got It’ When It Came To Main Street

By Mickey Howley

Writing this column is part of the job; so far I have written a little over a year’s worth, once a week, five hundred odd words at a time. The topic is open as long as it applies to Main Street.    
Sometimes the topic is readily apparent, other times I have to dig and read and do some research.  As for the writing process itself, like many things in life, sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is hard. Today’s column is both hard and easy.

First the hard part: Betty Ruth Swearengen died last Sunday afternoon. She had knee replacement surgery the Wednesday before, and sometime Thursday night she stopped breathing, was revived and put on life support, but passed away on Sunday. These types of surgeries are commonplace and routine nowadays, much like flying in a commercial jet airliner.  But as in flying, every once in a while something happens and the plane crashes.

Okay, so the reason for the crash is usually found, but that does not help those who were on board. Maybe someone will benefit from Betty Ruth’s experience, but she won’t. That is a hard thing to say, but that is just the way it is.

Now the easy part: If you write about people it is easy to write about the very bad ones or the very good ones. Most people are neither real bad nor real good and there is not a whole lot to say about them.  

Betty Ruth was one of the good ones.  Here is a partial list of what she did: cheerleader, military wife, mother, grand parent, great-grandparent, math teacher, business owner, house designer, gardener, city alderman, civic club leader, and Main Street building owner. It is in the last two roles that I knew her best.

Much of what has happened in Railroad Park, especially the park pavilion, is a result of Betty Ruth’s leadership. She was a driving force in the Town and Country Garden Club, and she and her fellow club members raised the funds and saw the project through with a determined passion.

It was not only because Betty Ruth owned the building next to the Main Street office that she was an enthusiastic Main Street member, Betty Ruth as we say, “got it.”  She was at Main Street‘s inaugural ceremony and she knew downtown re-vitalization was in Water Valley ’s best interest.  She was one of those great members: present at events, a steady supporter of projects, first in the facade grant program, even paying her dues ahead of time.

For me it is a personal loss, certainly not like for her family and life-long friends, as I had known her for only a few years.  It was just in the last year that we did have more sustained conversations.  In the last two months, it seemed we talked almost everyday about something for her facade renovation on Hair Trendz.  These building renovations are creative group projects, where many different skills are needed to bring about one vision.  

This is, where in my experience with her, she was at her best. Projects like this require many detailed decisions on glass, tile, color scheme, trim, lights, even down to details like doorknobs while all the time keeping the big picture in focus.  That is a lot easier said than done, but she did it with ease.  She was so easy to work with it was a simple pleasure. The hard part is now knowing she won’t be here anymore.

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