Betty Lee, a lead custodian for facilities management, grew up in Dayton, Virginia, and lives with her husband Steve in Clover Hill. Betty and her team are responsible for the west side of campus. They maintain the Seminary, Campus Center, Northlawn, Roselawn, Hillside and three houses on campus.
My given name is Betty, but my nickname is Bette, like Bette Midler. In school everyone called me “Betty,” but at home everybody called me “Bette.” My father wanted to name me after his Aunt Betty, and my mother wanted to name me after Bette Davis. Mother said they always mispronounced Bette Davis’s name “Betty,” but that her name was “Bette.” So mother wanted to name me “Bette,” but they named me Betty and called me “Bette.” It’s very confusing.
First job after high school:
I graduated from Turner Ashby High School in 1972, and actually worked for my father. He owned a grocery store in Dayton on Main Street called “Bernard’s Grocery,” and a distributing business. I drove a one-and-a-half-ton refrigerated truck and sold hot dogs, the cheese that’s in the wooden crates, and baloney-cloth baloney that was literally in cloth, back in the day, and I used to drive all over. I went to these small, little grocery stores in Elkton and Shenandoah, and sold my products.
My husband Steve and I were dating at the time, and he used to call it the baloney truck. He had to teach me to drive it because I didn’t know how to shift gears. It was quite the experience.
Then I got a job at Metro Pants, a factory in Bridgewater. I worked there for probably ten years, at a sewing machine that sewed the outside side seam of the pants. It had a knife on it to cut the threads, and then a needle to sew, and you had to pay attention, so you wouldn’t get your fingers cut off. You had to go fast, because it was piece rate; you got paid for the amount that you produced.
What was your path to working at EMU?
I was working part-time at Massanetta Springs Conference Center, and I wanted a full-time job. I happened to see the advertisement in the paper for custodians at EMU, so I applied and – luckily – got the job.
I say “luckily” because Evie King [then the supervisor of custodial services] always used to tell the story that Eldon Kurtz [then the director of Facilities Management] put my application on the “no” pile, but Evie said, “No, I like her. Let’s put her on the ‘yes’ pile and let me interview her.” I brought it up to Eldon one time, said, “I heard that you didn’t want me.” He said, “Oh that was a mistake, and Evie corrected it.”
Yes, she did – and so luckily I got a job here.
This year Steve and I will be married 36 years. We have one son Alex, who is married to Samantha and lives in Bridgewater. They have two children – Cash is nine and Vivian’s three – and they come up every Sunday for supper because they want to make sure that we always see the grandchildren at least once a week. I think it’s nice that they put forth that effort to make sure that we see the grandchildren.
Steve is retired. He worked for 30 years at Merck, and now he babysits our granddaughter on Wednesdays, so he’s lucky in that way. I try to get home in time to see her, but sometimes she leaves before I get there.
Life outside of work:
I try to hit that recliner as much as possible. That’s my favorite spot: the recliner. But we have a big yard and a lot of flowers, and my husband has a vegetable garden. I call it “his garden” because he’s very particular and it’s his baby, so I don’t really go in it. But I help with the flower beds and the yard work. We enjoy being outside.
And finally: Which of the following about Betty is a lie?
- I love chocolate, any kind. Chocolate is chocolate.
- I exercise – aqua aerobics – three days a week after work.
- I do not color my hair.