People of Charlotte, please meet Bettye Sue Newsom. Bettye Sue is a loving mother, grandmother, church member, and friend. She shares her perspective on life, from how Charlotte became her home in the 1960s to the year 2020 and how she has once again adjusted. Bettye Sue reminds us to cherish our own stories as well as our communities.
Now let's get to know Bettye Sue's story!
In summary, what’s your story?
I'm a very small town girl who attended a women's college in a pretty small place. I got married and Suzanne, my daughter, was born in Hartsville, SC, a pretty little college town. When Richard's company promoted him to a position in the southern executive office in Charlotte, I sat in The Open Kitchen and cried. My only experience with the city was when I attended a Judy Garland concert at Ovens Auditorium when she was attempting to make another comeback. Charlotte seemed so large even in 1963! I thought I would never have good friends again. We found an apartment and moved to Westfield Road. I was always a stay-at-home mom and that's the way I liked it.
How did your church help create a new home for your family?
The magic began when we found Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church. We all loved Selwyn and enjoyed helping throughout the years in numerous roles such as diaconate, elder, circle leader, youth advisor (in our early years), as well as taking groups to Montreat and the beach and more. Being a part of the church community is a joy. Suzanne did her part by going to Haiti with the Mecklenburg Presbytery Youth during the first year that girls were allowed to go in 1981; she remains an active choir member. My good friendships started at Selwyn and then grew through bridge club, Richard's Kendall connections, Suzanne's nursery school, neighbors, and beyond.
Please share your perspective on the pandemic.
This pandemic is something that's hard for me to describe. I wake up trying to remember what day it is! And the highlight of the week that puts everything in perspective is Sunday at Selwyn. I miss the people of Selwyn—dear old friends and people like you, Mai-Lis, that I've met along the way.
Have you felt lonely in 2020?
I haven't felt really lonely during this time because of books, phone calls with friends (almost daily), Netflix, and CNN. Did I mention I am a news junkie? Richard and I shared that indulgence.
As a person who cherishes friendships, how have you stayed in touch with friends this year?
A few good friends and I have been lunching in a wonderful carport that is open with a big, long picnic table. We have been enjoying takeout from Harpers, Baoding, and Trios along with a huge helping of conversation. These get-togethers have been a lifesaver along with Suzanne and Eric.
What's your secret to good friendships?
I don't like confrontations with my friends even when there can be some major issues...especially in the last few months; there are too many things to enjoy together. My friendships are filled with lots of tears and laughter, as well as lots of "do you remember when" and "can you believe we did that" in our laughs together.
Have you been using video calls?
I do not ZOOM nor do I FaceTime except once by accident with a friend. We both looked pretty bad—no makeup, hair messed up, sweats, and tees... but we just decided to go with the flow and so we stayed on!
After your husband Richard passed, how did life change?
The hardest thing for me to let go of was my best friend and lover of 56 years, Richard. That was a hard one. We met in college (Clemson and Lander) and literally grew up together. A different time and place. I would not change it for anything. Those are memories that bless and burn.
I've been with my daughter and son-in-law since Richard passed—it seemed like a natural fit. My family is smaller now but I treasure all my cousins and friends who are like family. I'm very fortunate to have my good friends, and I grieve the ones I've lost like my beloved Jane Fairfax.
As an avid reader, you always find a way to occupy your time. Any book recommendations?
Books have always been my salvation. I have library books piled by my chair and in my bookcase; on the top shelf, I have "emergency" books that I have bought but haven't read yet during the pandemic. I'm pretty particular about my books, what I read. I guess my books don't have people living "happily ever after" without confrontations along the way. Alas, no Hallmark movies for me! And of course, no " chick-lit" or beach books. I love contemporary fiction, British mysteries, and memoirs. I enjoy good Southern writers like Pat Conroy, Rick Bragg, Eudora Welty, Lee Smith, and others. There are some books that always come to mind when someone asks for a recommendation—these are not new books, but books I always remember: The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott, Gone so Long by Andre Dubus III, The Goldfinch by Donna Tarrt (terrible movie).
Tell us about Caleb the cat in your photo!
Caleb does not suffer fools gladly and is not a warm and fuzzy thing, but I've learned to appreciate the uniqueness of him. Suzanne and I are his people. When we had overnight guests last Christmas, he had just enough and left for four days. He is very much an inside/outside cat...but he is my baby.
Thank you for sharing your story. Any closing thoughts?
Holidays will be quiet this year but that's okay. Except for a church member, I don't personally know anyone who has had Covid and hope that stays the same. I never thought I would be alive for an event that my great grandchildren and generations after will hear and read about.
People of Charlotte publishes stories about everyday Charlotteans, Carolinians, and beyond. We celebrate YOUR story because YOU matter. It is our mission to promote inclusiveness, unity, understanding, community, diversity, empathy, inspiration, and compassion.
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