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Aunt Betty celebrated on turning 100 years old

100-year-old Betty Hout with portrait done by relative Sarah Hout -- Contributed

Al Roker may not have mentioned my Aunt Betty’s name on the “Today” show for having turned 100, but even though her picture didn’t make the front of a Smucker’s jam jar, there was no less fanfare when it came to celebrating Betty Hout becoming a centenarian on Sept. 12.

An open house party one day and a family picnic the next combined to reaffirm how special the occasion was and how special indeed the celebrant, who has touched so many lives through her family, friends and community involvement.

Add to that a mountain of cards and calls; gifts that included a surprise acrylic portrait painting done by Sarah Hout, the wife of a nephew’s son; and a sign along the main drag of Richmond, its message on one side “Give a shout — Betty Hout is 100!” and “Happy 100th Betty Hout! Our town’s oldest gal!” on the other.

My sister Linda and I joked that, given our surname has always been so mispronounced through the years, that we’d put up “Give a toot for Betty Hoot! She’s 100!”

Aunt Betty enjoyed all the fuss and fun.

“If I’d have known it was going to be this much fun turning 100, I would have done it years ago,” came her quip, followed up with her signature smile and laughter.

I last wrote a column on Aunt Betty when she had her 90th birthday, thinking at the time that another decade and we’ll be at the three-digit mark.

And blink blink, we’re there, applauding the woman who was born Sept. 12, 1920, to Don and Adelia Hedges and grew up in Broadacre. Her father worked on the railroad, her mother was a homemaker, raising eight children — four sons, four daughters, Aunt Betty being the youngest.

A 1938 graduate of Hopedale High School, Aunt Betty went on to graduate from the Steubenville Business College.

“I sort of always wanted to be a secretary,” she said, noting her very first job was at J.C. Penney when it was located on North Fourth Street.

She worked for attorney C.B. McCann in downtown Steubenville when she was living in town with her sister and brother-in-law, the late Virginia and J. Vincent Thompson. Then came time as a bookkeeper in the office at the Steubenville Pottery.

“I worked there until I was married,” she explained.

Aunt Betty is my next door neighbor, my aunt by marriage as her husband, the late Howard Hout, and my dad, Jay W. “Pidge” Hout, were brothers.

She met Howard courtesy of the late Evelyn “Eppie” Crew, the last of the Crew family members to live in what today is the Crew House Museum on Main Street, Richmond.

“I don’t know how I came to know Eppie, but she was bound and determined she was going to get Howard and me together,” Aunt Betty assured with a chuckle for emphasis.

“She kept arranging one party after another. She’d have Howard there and me there.”

The “arranging” ultimately proved fruitful as the two married in 1944. They had three children — Joyce, Ronnie and Denny.

She returned to the workforce with 17 years as an assistant clerk of courts in Jefferson County, serving under Michael Button, Gus Evans, Adam Scurti and Joseph Bruzzese. She retired in 1991.

A widow since Dec. 25, 1980, Aunt Betty would see her family grow to include son-in-law Ralph Proffitt and daughter-in-law Linda; four grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren with two on the way.

Aunt Betty is an avid gardener who started going to exercise classes at Curves when she was in her 80s. She still drives; has traveled extensively, stateside and abroad; loves company; and is an active gal, involved in the Richmond United Methodist Church, the Richmond Community Historical Society, Richmond American Legion Post 740 Honored Seven Auxiliary and the now defunct Richmond Lioness Club.

During a time of sharing Betty stories, one included her surprise when receiving a box of dishes she’d been sent from Germany when her son-in-law and daughter were stationed there. Not only in there were pretty dishes, but a hydraulic actuator from the USS Forrestal — cause for her to summon Howard with a distress call, wondering “Is this a bomb?”

Not your everyday package by any means.

There also was an assurance from me about her forgiving heart — how I couldn’t understand as a child why my brothers walked such a distance at Halloween to soap people’s windows. I just went next door and soaped Aunt Betty’s, but like my cousin noted, they knew it was me since I was only tall enough to reach the lower ones.

Betty-fest 2020 brought insight and reflection, including her secret to longevity.

“I think exercise and just a happy attitude, that has a lot to do with it,” she said.

“It’s really been a wonderful two days — it really couldn’t have been any nicer,” she said of all the festivities.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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