Betty playing a toss game at the Mills Christmas Party.By Natalie Tucker, Mills Site Manager and Floyd Andrick
Our matriarch at Mills Senior Center is Betty Foland. She has been coming to Mills for over ten years! She loves spreading cheer and inspiring us with interesting stories about the importance of pressing on despite life’s challenges. When we told her that we would love to write down one of her stories for the Prime Times, she decided to share a memory she holds close to her heart.
Betty Youmans married Jack Bailey on July 15, 1955, which was also her 19th birthday. The wedding took place at the Church of God in Hope. Betty really didn’t want to marry Jack Bailey, but her mother pressured her into the marriage because she thought he would be a good provider. Following the wedding, Betty went home to change out of her wedding gown into attire for her reception. That was when her mother, Anna Louise Youmans, handed Betty her adoption papers.
Having these papers in her possession that day caused her to reflect on the stories she heard from her mom and dad throughout her life. “My parents, Frank and Anna Youmans, had been soo good to me. As I thought about it, I wondered how many babies were even chosen for adoption in 1936 when I was born…probably not many because of the Great Depression.”
“Back then, the adoption process was nothing like it is today. My parents wanted a child, and Reverend Huber, their pastor, took them to Detroit because he knew about a home for unwed mothers. Back then, people didn’t have to go through the courts to adopt. There were soo many babies there. Girls as young as 14 would just leave their babies at the home.”
Her parents told her that the home for unwed mothers had rows of babies laying in cribs that were lined up along the halls. There was a separate section for boys and girls. Prospective parents could just choose which ones they wanted. Betty’s father Frank told her that he went around the corner ahead of her mother, and that is when he heard Betty cooing. When he looked at her for the first time, her socks were off, and she was kicking her feet in the air. Frank said she was having “one heck of a good time.” Betty kept looking at him with her big blue eyes, and Frank said he just knew that she was the baby for him.
“My biological mother named me Betty Louise. My parents liked that name because my adopted mother’s middle name was also Louise. I continued to think about my adoption, and decided to consider myself lucky to be chosen since other kids were probably not as lucky.”
As a child, Betty lived and worked with her parents on the farm which was on Adams Road in Hope. The farm was only a quarter mile from the one-room Maxwell School that Betty attended. She readily remembers riding her bike around the community to collect news for her mother’s newspaper column entitled “Hope Happenings.” Following graduation from school, Betty worked at several jobs in Midland including Frolic Sweet Shop and the Kresge store on Main Street. Eventually she went to work at the Everett American Motors Plant where she painted headlights.
Betty’s marriage to Jack Bailey was difficult. She once commented that the only thing good about that marriage was her six children. After 19 years, the marriage was dissolved.
Eventually, Betty met and married Max Foland. It was a happy marriage for both until Max’s illness and death in 2010. After Max passed away, Betty’s son Bob moved in to take care of her and the home. Bob has been very dedicated to provide diligent care for his mother throughout several surgeries and illnesses.
Betty says the best thing about coming to Mills is dining with everyone else who comes here. “We’re family. Whoever visits us for the first time is only a stranger once. After that, they are one of us. We all have a great time. We love to have fun together and help each other through tough times.”
Despite ill health and recent blindness, Betty maintains a sweet disposition. Her upbeat and nurturing nature, positive mind, and great sense of humor inspire us all! Everybody at Mills loves her! She recently celebrated her 87th birthday by attending the Hope Park picnic and spending time with friends and family. Come celebrate Betty with us on Wed, Nov 1st at Mills Center!