I was able to tell Mrs. Betty goodbye during a visit to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford six days before she left us. She was nearing the end of the brave battle she fought with cancer during the last 16 months, but she was having a good weekend and enjoyed visiting with her family and friends.
Since the first day she was diagnosed, her desire was to beat that cancer to return to the Herald office. She enjoyed her job, her community and her friends and customers immensely.
Mrs. Betty immediately adopted me as a second son when I came to work at the Herald office in 2004. Admittedly I was pretty green when I started at the Herald. I had a lot to learn and made my share of mistakes. There were times when someone may need to come to the office and straighten me out. But first they had to get by Mrs. Betty, and it didn’t matter if I was right or wrong, her mind was already made up.
Her passing marks the end of an era at the Herald for the Shearer family who owned the paper from 1943 until 2004. Mrs. Betty continued at the Herald after the paper sold, playing a vital role in the business that meant so much to her until last spring. She continued to write her weekly column until a few weeks ago.
It’s hard to believe that of the 134 years the North Mississippi Herald has operated, Mrs. Betty’s time spans nearly half of that. She started at the Herald office on June 23, 1958, only four days after marrying Edward “Ed” Bradley Shearer, III. During the next 63 years she only missed a few days of work until her battle with cancer.
Hard work didn’t deter Mrs. Betty, I can remember many times when she talked about her life before coming to the newspaper. She grew up on a farm, where work hours were often sunup to sundown. At the Herald, especially in those early years, the work hours could stretch into the wee hours of the morning.
Betty loved her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. She loved her son, Jim, and daughter-in-law, Celeste. She looked forward to their calls and visits. She loved to share their latest accomplishments with her friends and in her column. She grieved the death of her husband almost daily. She knew he was in heaven, but she missed him. They had worked side-by-side all those years, and it wasn’t quite the same for her after his death.
I think that grief is one reason she poured herself into others, never missing an opportunity to comfort someone who may have been grieving the loss of a loved one, battling an illness or just having a tough day. Melody recalled that a week didn’t pass without Mrs. Betty sending cards to people in the community, sharing her love. Often those cards had checks in them if a person had a need.
As news spread about Mrs. Betty’s death last Friday, there was a shared feeling that the Herald will not be the same. Her void in the office had been already felt during the weeks and months that passed without her. We miss her.