When I grow up I want to be like Betty Stein.
I began writing this after I finished an all-too-infrequent phone conversation with Betty about a few things she had on her mind, including her upcoming “By The Way” column that appears every other Tuesday on this page. It has been my privilege over the past several years to be her editor.
Betty also writes a “Page Turner” column for our features section on Saturdays that focuses on what local people are reading. I’ve been one of her subjects for that column in days gone by.
Her “By The Way” columns include a potpourri of topics, including books, the arts and local history as she often reminisces about earlier days in her life in Fort Wayne. She has quite a history to draw from after all, since she’s in her 10th decade. In deference to good manners I won’t disclose her age, but my 92-year-old father is half a decade younger.
She began contributing her writing to The News-Sentinel in the 1980s. And if you’ve read her columns through the years, you may have learned that she grew up in a coal-furnace house on West Washington Boulevard, attended Central High School, spent the early part of World War II in Texas and, ultimately, returned to Fort Wayne.
Betty is a retired Fort Wayne Community Schools teacher. She didn’t start that career until her two children were grown. She taught English and social studies at Fairfield Junior High School for 13 years and in 1979 became curriculum coordinator and assistant to the principal at Memorial Park Middle School. She retired in 1982 but has continued to serve as a consultant for Memorial Park over the years.
She enjoyed a well-deserved honor recently when she was awarded an honorary doctorate of human letters degree during the University of Saint Francis commencement ceremony in May at the Memorial Coliseum. She told me that was a really special honor for her. It was at Saint Francis where she earned a master’s degree and a teaching certificate.
Her efforts have been recognized by other awards as well, including Indiana’s Sagamore of the Wabash, which has been presented by Indiana governors to a wide variety of notable people, including astronaut Virgil (Gus) Grissom, composer Hoagy Carmichael, comedian Red Skelton, Indianapolis 500 driver A.J. Foyt, former Indiana University basketball coach Bob Knight and other “citizens who have contributed greatly to the Hoosier heritage.”
Betty is one of Fort Wayne’s treasures. She is an archive of local lore and an proselytizer of literature.
She has inspired me to want to be like her by living life to its fullest, keeping my mind stimulated and re-energized by literature and the arts, remaining engaged in the community and helping others.
If you want to get to know her better, read her columns. Coming up Tuesday is one of her many quiz columns that challenge your knowledge on a variety of topics. In this one she will test what you know about communicating.