Betty McMullen likes to remember “The Good Old Days” at church: playing the piano, listening to the sermons, attending, then taking her family to Vacation Bible School. She has many good memories because she has attended Calvary United Methodist Church in Newcomerstown, Ohio for 93 of her 95 years. McMullen will be honored during services at the church tomorrow.
Born to John and Gertrude Wilson, in Newcomerstown in 1924, McMullen was baptized April 11, 1926, and never attended another church, except for one special day: her wedding day. “I wanted to walk down an aisle when I got married,” she said, “but our church didn’t have one, so we were married in the other Methodist Church.”
“The church showed us how to live a good life. I would advise everyone to get to church and get to know Jesus.”
“My father was a barber, who also raised pigs,” she said. “My parents thought church was the most important part of our bringing up, so we were there every Sunday. I played the piano, my sister, Esther, clarinet and guitar and sister, Mabel, the violin. Our father was so proud of us, he would find places around town for us to play besides church. Mabel even played with the Philharmonic.”
McMullen married her husband, Denver, in 1950. “I was the old maid in the family,” she said, “but it was worth the wait.”
The couple had one son, Robert, four grandchildren, twins, Lori Bassett and Michelle Dallacheisa, John and Kevin McMullen. To date there are 10 great grandchildren, Walker, Cheyenne, Sierra, Austin and William McMullen; Silas, Garret and Lilianna Bassett, and Mikayla and Jayden Dallacheisa. Denver passed away in 2003.
Before her marriage, McMullen worked at JC Penney as a clerk, but once married, the couple moved outside of town where they devoted their time to raising children and grandchildren and tending a large garden. Granddaughter, Michelle remembers that they raised enough produce for the whole family, and that her grandmother loved to cook and bake. She said, “There were always cookies, cakes or pies baking for the grandchildren when we were there.”
“Baking is why you have grandchildren,” McMullen countered.
Michelle said her Grandma loves to eat. “She was raised during times when it was sinful to waste food. She still cleans her plate to this day. We honestly don’t know where she puts all that food in that tiny little body.” McMullen’s favorite meal is spaghetti.
Things have changed in the last two years since McMullen moved to assisted living at Park Village Southside in New Philadelphia. Before that, she served as secretary and treasurer of the Women’s Missions at church, and saw to it that everyone got there for services. She and her husband used to take conducted tours as far as Hawaii. Today, because she no longer drives, she attends services at Park Village and travels as far as her wheelchair will take her.
Her days are still full. “We don’t have time to sit down during the day,” she said. “There are so many activities. I enjoy games and puzzles and reading, particularly Amish novels. I read The Times-Reporter from cover to cover every morning. First I read the gossip in 30 Seconds, then I check the obituaries to be sure I’m still alive. I have a bird feeder outside my window and love watching the birds. We have fun birthday parties with lots of refreshments.”
McMullen said she would much rather read than watch TV, “but every Saturday night I have a date,” she said, “With Lawrence Welk. The only thing I don’t like is exercise class. I don’t really need all that exercise at my age.”
Michelle and Lori spend as much quality time with McMullen as they can. They share memories with her like staying overnight at her house.“We could only go two at a time, Michelle said. “Her spare bedroom had a rocking chair and a desk with her Bible and Devotions on it. At bedtime we would have a snack and then she would rock us and read us stories from the Bible or story books. If we were ever troubled, she would always say, ‘This, too, will pass, Dearie.’ Calling you Dearie made you feel like the most important person on earth. She is the most inspirational woman who taught us what it is to be Christian women.”
They laugh about funny memories, such as when Michelle didn’t like it that a puppy was about to be stabbed in a story, so she tore the page out of the book, or about the fact that the twins’ father didn’t like to read as a child, and when McMullen took him to a summer reading program at the library, he brought the books home and hid them. They found them years later when they moved out of the house.
“God has provided me with a wonderful family,” McMullen said, “and the church showed us how to live a good life. I would advise everyone to get to church and get to know Jesus. You have to behave in order to have a happy life. At 95 I am happy because of the way I lived my life. When God calls, I will be ready.”