Growing up in New Jersey, one of Betty’s earliest memories is her father pasting a blue star in the living room, a reminder of her two older brothers serving in World War II. Anxious for their return, Betty would sit with her parents every night and read the newspaper for updates.
It was in those same pages that Betty fell in love with comic strips. From an early age, she began drawing characters, creating stories of her own. “I wanted to be Lois Lane,” she laughs. That sense of adventure, of wanting to write her own story, stuck in Betty’s mind as she entered her teenage years. “I knew there was more out there in the world.” After high school, she pursued a degree in journalism and then joined the Air Force, eager to see the world.
Stationed in Germany, Betty worked as a creative arts teacher for the children of soldiers. Her eyes light up as she describes those years and the camaraderie between her fellow teachers. With brothers more than ten years older, Betty often felt lonely growing up, but in the Air Force she felt a true sense of community.
On the weekends Betty loved to explore with her friends, often making quick trips to Luxembourg, Switzerland or France. For Christmas and Easter breaks, Betty ventured farther, traveling to Israel. And she still beams with joy talking about her visit to the Casa di Guiletta in Italy, the luxurious manor that inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
After earning her Master’s degree, Betty yearned for New York, the cosmopolitan city that had captivated her since she was young. She took a job working in the city’s Human Resources department — a role she held for 30 years. With her wry smile, Betty says “You get to see it all working for the city. Nothing will surprise you after that!”
Settling into New York, Betty knew she wanted to live near lots of people. That’s why she chose an apartment right off Union Square. It was a brand new building and she even got to pick the paint color for the walls. More than 50 years on, it’s the same place she calls home today.
With her usual zest for life, Betty took up painting in her later years. Filled with vivid colors inspired by expressionists like Wassily Kadinsky and Lee Krasner, many of her canvases still decorate the walls of her apartment.
You need something to look forward to when your health is bad. Citymeals is that thing for me.
Only a few years ago Betty celebrated her birthday by walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. “I just love Brooklyn. It makes me feel like I’m in a different world,” she confides. Now 89, her days are marked by isolation and increasingly poor health. Her brothers have both passed and what few distant relatives she has live far away. Every week, her niece calls to check in, one of the only connections Betty has to the outside world.
More recently, Betty’s health has begun to decline, making basic tasks like cooking a meal impossible. Betty has lost most of the vision in one eye, while painful bone disease has left her stooped. After surgery on both hips, a social worker recommended Citymeals. “You need something to look forward to when your health is bad. Citymeals is that thing for me.”
Betty loves the meals, especially the beef stew. In the summer, she looks forward to pears and other seasonal fruits. “You get a bit of everything… juice, fruit, meat, veggies!” Deliveries from Citymeals are particularly special for Betty as she’s grown close to her deliverer, Richard. He always greets her with a bright smile and shares a few kind words.