Friday, January 27, 2017

What a Celebration!

On Wednesday we went to a special birthday party. A one hundredth and third (yes, 103) birthday party. A special birthday party for a special woman.

Betty and her son Clarence
Some time ago our friend Caroll introduced us to Betty Banton. Here are some excerpts of the Press Release sent to our local paper by the president of the Woman’s Historical Club of Detroit, of which Betty is a beloved member,

“ . . . It is anticipated that Betty will receive birthday greetings from former President Obama, Dr. Paula Johnson, President of Wellesley College, the Dunbar Alumni Federation, Dunbar High School, Washington D.C. and others.

Betty was born in 1914 and grew up in Washington D.C. She is a proud graduate of Dunbar High School in N.W. Betty has often recalled how W.E.B. Dubois visited her home when she was a young girl. As a result she was invited to enroll in Wellesley College where she studied the Classics and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. At last year’s installation as President of Wellesley College, Dr. Paula A Johnson, MD, MPH acknowledged Betty as Wellesley’s oldest living alumna.

Betty is the widow of Clarence Banton of Detroit, proudly acknowledged as one of Michigan’s 155 Tuskeegee Airmen. Following WWII, the Bantons established Michigan as home. Clarence was employed as an engineer in the Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant, Warren, Michigan.

Betty was a talented and beloved English and Latin (you can see why she and Ernie get on so well, editor’s note) teacher a Highland Park High School for many years. She was highly respected by her colleagues and frequently recognized by the Classics Department of Wayne State University. Her former students, colleagues and others continue to visit her regularly, always enjoying her great kindness and strong wit.

Betty’s body may be frail, but her thinking is intact. She is an avid reader and intently follows current events. She followed the recent election earnestly, proud to be a “Wellesley Woman for Hillary.” She often shares that one of her proudest achievements was being able to vote for Barack Obama not once but twice!

Betty is the mother of Clarence and James (deceased.) She is a member of the Woman’s Historical Club of Detroit and Christ Episcopal Church.”

Eloquent words, but any one with knowledge of the times in which she lived (or anyone who has seen Hidden Figures) can see how groundbreaking her life was. Here we see Wellesley’s oldest alumna showing her support for Hillary Clinton, arguably Wellesley’s best known alumna.

And here is where this post fits in seamlessly with the quasi movie review I wrote in my last post. When I walked into the small party, there was a man I didn’t recognize. He introduced himself as Chauncey Spencer, the son of a deceased Tuskeegee Airman. Caroll had met him at a Martin Luther King commemoration and invited him to the party as a link to the distinguished military unit in which Betty’s husband served. Chauncey honors his father by keeping memories of the airmen alive.  The subject of Hidden Figures came up, because Katherine Johnson's husband had also been a Tuskeegee Airman. I asked Chauncey if he had seen the movie. “Yes” he said. “I know Katherine.”

I attended her 102nd birthday party and hope to be at number 104.


Z said...

Wow. Many happy returns to her.

Anonymous said...

There is a fellow in our church whom I've not met (we've only been there for 2 years) who is 103 and still lives on his own. We are trying to reach out to him about some items but have not gotten a response. I would like to meet him as he flew the China Clipper and bought a new car when he was 100.