Happy birthday, angel Betty

Happy birthday to the sweet angel who brought me into the world at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia, in February 1961.

Betty in the 1970s

Betty Louise had known for months that she couldn’t keep her fourth child, already having two teenage sons and a 6-year-old daughter at home, and as a divorcee months from turning 40 who had fatefully conceived me with her ex-husband. She had divorced Bob in 1959 over his drinking and other deplorable failings that had caused the breakup of their family after 20 years of marriage.

Every ounce and crevice of my heart believes Betty wished she could have taken me home and raised me just like she did my three long-unknown siblings, Crys, Robin and Terry. It was a choice I know she had to make, not only for her children’s well-being, but for my safety, since she didn’t know what Bob might do if he found out about me.

Instead, Betty lovingly gifted me to a never-met family that had already adopted one son and was months from the end of a brief three-year stopover in Huntington on its way to a forever life in Texas. (As many of you know, Bob moved to Tampa, and after I researched his July 1962 death, I learned that he had become homeless and tragically drowned in the Hillsborough River in a drunken fight.)

Betty with my sister Terry in 1988 at Terry’s home in Arvada, CO. Betty died of lung cancer four years later.

The bond I’ve felt with my full-blooded siblings has been a blessing that has changed me in ways I can’t begin to describe. Even though we don’t talk or see one another as much these days as I’d like (Crys and Terry are in Colorado), we text often, and I can’t imagine life without them. And my connection to angel Betty has been everlasting since the day I contacted Crys in June 2005 and started learning about the loving, selfless, hard-working, forgiving, musically gifted woman she was. Not a person I’ve found who knew her has said a negative word. She married two alcoholic men, so it’s clear her heart was never out of place.

My birth mother Betty Louise Campbell Workman in the early 1940s in Huntington, WV. She’s outside the home where she lived with my birth father Bob and his mother Kathryn. Behind her is the floodwall built after the devastating 1937 Ohio River flood that killed hundreds. Betty was in her early 20s and had not had any of my 3 siblings yet. My brother Crys was born in February 1944, followed by brother Robin in July 1947, sister Terry in December 1954 and me in February 1961.

Betty died at the young age of 71 when lung cancer overcame her in 1992 — 13 years before I found my sibs — and Robin joined her 10 years ago when he was just 61. Although I never fulfilled my dream of meeting her here, I know I’ll get that chance someday. For now, I celebrate her memory, thanks to all the Betty stories and sweetness shared with me.

Speaking of sweetness: Kay bought me this yummy chocolate-chocolate chip cake today from Nothing Bundt Cakes so I could celebrate Betty’s birthday. I told Kay I sure hope they have cake in heaven. Said Kay, whose preference is always obvious, “Or at least ice cream!”

Not surprisingly, the first story I ever wrote for publication about my birth family was about Betty, published in The Dallas Morning News on Mother’s Day 2011. If you haven’t read it and would like to, here’s the link. (https://www.dallasnews.com/…/essay-a-son-gets-to-know-and-l…)

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to Betty’s beautiful singing — or if you have and would like to hear her again — here are links to her crooning with a dance band in Logan, West Virginia, around 1950. I could listen to these on repeat all day!


We’ll always love you, dear Betty.

Betty, my sister Terry and Betty’s second husband, Ronnie Cazad, at Terry’s graduation from Huntington East High School in 1973.
I love this photo so much. It’s Betty with my brother Crys (in back) and my sister Terry (front right) with Crys’s three children: Brad (left), Lewellyn (Lew) and Tim, who’s been a Lakewood (CO) police officer for years. The pic was taken in 1988 when Betty and Ronnie visited Colorado.

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