Local Folks: Betsy Board

Local Folks: Betsy Board
Betsy Board

Although she hails from New Bedford, Massachusetts, Betsy Board says she has “morphed into somebody who loves shrimp and grits” which is understandable since she has lived in Jacksonville since the 1970’s. Her amusing and convoluted tale involves attending the College of the Virgin Islands in the late 1960’s majoring in French when a “good looking jet pilot named Bob Board who had just left the navy (NAS Jax) came into St. Thomas on his sailboat.” He frequented the bookstore where Betsy worked — always looking for books on photography. As Board said, “He mentioned that he was taking his boat to Puerto Rico for an overhaul and asked if I wanted to go along.” She laughed, “Well, it was the 60’s and I thought “Why Not?” It was sort of the equivalent of “hey little girl wanna’ go for a sail?” sort of thing.”

Betsy and Bob sailed throughout the Virgin Islands, the Grenadines, “everywhere in between” then sailed through life together, living on a “tiny 30-foot wooden ketch name “Reiver” (which means gypsy or scalawag) on the Ortega River for about 3 years then moved into their home in Fairfax or “Avontega” as Betsy calls it. Unfortunately, Bob passed away 7 years ago. The lively, witty Betsy recalls that she enjoyed trying to make her husband laugh. Since he rarely smiled, she called him “Stone Face.” He must have smiled frequently under his moustache because Betsy is so entertaining, insightful, interesting, and funny. As she said, “My life just changed after Bob passed on. It just stopped. Everything changes when that happens. It’s a whole different ballgame.”

She volunteered for Learn to Read, pursued studying guitar with Arvid Smith but found it, like reading, a solitary activity. Always interested in art and artists, particularly the masters – Rembrandt, da Vinci, Durer – she remarked, “I’m so vanilla. I like almost all art and appreciate it, for the vision or execution, but my work is representational. The French phrase “Je vois” means to see and the phrase “Je regard” means to look and appreciate but not particularly want to have it on your wall.” She started classes at Murray Hill Art Center with William McMahon and stated, “No one is more surprised than I am about my art.” She is a member of the Jacksonville Artists Guild, the Art League, and the Ortega River Club where she joins the “Porch Peaches” – Cindy Milam, Denise Jolly and Dorothy Marsh among others, for libations and fellowship and a great deal of jocularity. She also enjoys gardening “when it’s not 1,000 degrees outside.”

Betsy is a voracious reader – about 200 books a year – plus, magazines, newspapers, menus, and cookbooks. She recently managed to clear out her collection of over 200 cookbooks. (although saved a few.)  She laments the lack of having gatherings so she can prepare one of her artfully arranged charcuterie boards filled with delectable hors d’ oeuvres and use her extensive collection of dinnerware. Besides cooking, reading, doing art she feeds a few outdoor cats – Hot lips and Kramer to name a couple — then there’s her inside cat Special Ed. She adopted Ed when she was working for Charles Perry Company. “He was a stray; then he would come into the building; finally, he spent most of his days on my desk and I finally took him home.” Betsy retired from the company 5 years ago after 27 years as the five feet tall “Princess of Power.”  She worked with manufacturing representatives, did trouble shooting for hydraulic steering systems for boats, managed the warehouse and sometime drove the forklift if a part came in and the guys were out to lunch. “Remember,” she said, “This was back in the day when we wore dresses to work!” She stated that she is a nicer person since she retired. Working in an almost all male environment she had to be assertive (and drive a forklift in a skirt.) Now she considers herself the “Princess of Procrastination.”

Betsy is an enthusiastic fan of the television program “Yellowstone,” anything that is “wonderfully snarky” and is known to slow down near the end of an enjoyable book because she regrets leaving the characters who have become like old friends. She has eclectic tastes – likes “quirky and whimsical” and enjoys all kinds of music – rock, opera, classical – but jazz not so much. She quipped jokingly, “I find it disturbing. I’m wondering “Why did they stick that xylophone in the middle of that?”

Betsy has a ready wit and a philosophical approach to life. One of her favorite singer/philosophers is Willie Nelson. In his song “Not something you get Over, just something you get Through” he says, “Life is just a sad, sad song.” For Betsy there have been sad times. But she goes forward saying, “We all just do what we have to do. You never know what is coming around the corner. I love meeting people and learning about diverse cultures, beliefs, lives. Like in my art class – we may all look at the exact same thing – but we interpret it differently.”

Betsy does what she must do to get through life with grace, kindness, a grateful spirit, and a quirky sense of humor which bring joy to those around her.

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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