Editorial by Chad Hobbs
From the moment we take our first breath, the clock begins to tick on our lives. For some, it seems they barely get started before the good Lord calls them home. For others, they are blessed with long lives. Whether it is fleeting moments or decades we are blessed with, the time spent with loved ones is never long enough. The question is, what do we do with our short time here on earth?
One of the unfortunate parts of this job is watching, week after week, obituaries be submitted for print. Whether it is someone I know or a complete stranger, I know that there is a group of people struggling with the pain of death. It is an unsettling constant. Not a week goes by without an obituary section in the paper.
Seeing Betty Jo Lancaster’s obituary come in this past week has had a great impact on me. It was not just because I know many of her family members and hate to see anyone suffer the pain of losing a mother or grandmother, but also because it forced me to take a trip down memory lane, reflecting on the legacy we leave behind.
There wasn’t a child who went through Flaherty in the 1980s that wasn’t affected by her directly, and still to this day there are children being indirectly affected by her legacy.
My journey began with her in 1984. Outside of gym and recess, lunch was always my favorite part of school. That year I not only began my first year of school but also learned that those who worked in food service would be my best friends.
That year she was assistant manager under a lady named Mrs. Burch. She would retire within a couple years of me starting school, and Betty Jo would then become manager. There is no telling how many thousands of lunch tickets she punched and meals she prepared at Flaherty, but there were no doubt a great multitude of children, including myself, that were nourished by her hands and hard work, day after day, during our journey at Flaherty.
She would go on to have her daughter-in-law, Terry, join her staff, while I was there. Terry would work her way up to manager, after Betty Jo retired, and retire herself, years later, as Food Service Director for the whole Meade County School District. The amount of children that were nourished and impacted by these two ladies over the years would be mind-blowing on its own, but that was far from the only impact Betty Jo had on me and many like myself.
One of my favorite days in the cafeteria was when Betty Jo’s son, Dan, would come to school and hand out team trophies to all of us who played baseball or softball at Flaherty Community Park. I fell in love with baseball in elementary school. Though she didn’t directly impact that important part of my youth, she did indirectly through her son.
Dan would not only be one of the best coaches I ever had but would also become commissioner of the ballpark, a position he still holds to this day. His role as a coach and park director has impacted countless numbers of Flaherty youth, along with many others in neighboring communities, through his guidance helping run the Tri-County League that Flaherty’s teams compete in.
Outside of my love for sports, showing hogs at the county fair every year was another one of my great loves as a child. As I worked through 4-H and then on to the FFA, a requirement for showing was to be a member of the Swine Club. Another one of Betty Jo’s sons, Gary, volunteered his time to help run that club for years. It is hard to say how many children benefited from his leadership in that organization over the years.
All told, there have been thousands of children that have had Mrs. Lancaster’s thumbprint, either directly or indirectly, on their lives. Like throwing a rock in a lake, it is hard to tell the ripples or impact that so many of us have had on our lives, either through her work at the schools or by the work of her children.
As the Lancaster family mourns the loss of Betty Jo, I send not only my thoughts and prayers to them, but a great thanks to her not only for what she did for so many of us but also for raising her family to volunteer their time and energy to help so many of us have such great memories of our youth.
It is a great example of how often those who leave the greatest legacies aren’t presidents or celebrities. They are men and women who give themselves to helping children become the best versions of themselves, whether it’s by nourishing them or teaching them. Betty Jo leaves just such a legacy, one that continues to impact children, such as my own son, still to this day.