The Way We Were: Elizabeth “Betty” Poag Reed

The Way We Were: Elizabeth “Betty” Poag Reed
Betty Reed, 2022

Elizabeth Poag, now Betty Reed, knows Jacksonville from the top down: she was born in 1944 at the second location of St. Luke’s Hospital on the corner of Boulevard and 8th Streets, grew up in Northside, spent time in Arlington and Southside, and has lived in the Mandarin area for the last 40 years.

Growing up within a block of Norwood Elementary, Betty would walk to school. To this day she remembers the name of every one of her teachers. The principal there was red-headed Mabel Pitts, who was rumored to possess an electronic paddle in her office. So, to avoid a spanking, Betty made sure to steer clear of trouble. “I was extra good all the time,” she said.

The youngest of three, Betty had brothers who were 10 and 12 years older than she, and they doted on her. “I was their little baby girl,” she said. Betty was not permitted by her parents to go to the local park 10 blocks away, too far for a little girl to walk, but both her brothers played basketball there. Often, they took Betty to the local pharmacy where they played the pinball machine. Betty liked going there for two reasons. She could spin around on the stools at the counter. And she could buy comic books to trade back and forth with her neighborhood friends. “Superman was my favorite,” she said.

Betty’s parents instilled values in her. One of them was the importance of setting goals in life. At about five or so years old, Betty set a goal for herself: she was going to be a majorette. She’d march around her front yard practicing and visioning. For junior high, Betty went to Kirby-Smith. Then, she went on to Andrew Jackson High School, class of 1962. “I was a majorette at Kirby and Jackson,” she said. She had accomplished her goal twice, and she still attends reunions.

Betty Poag, Tiger Bearer
Betty Poag, Tiger Bearer

At Betty’s 7th grade graduation from Norwood, the Gideons came to pass out small bibles to the students. Also present were DAR members, Daughters of the American Revolution. They presented Betty with the Good Citizenship Award, an engraved medal. That was the first time Betty had heard of DAR, and she so admired the ladies. She set another goal: someday, she would be one of them.

While in high school, in addition to being a majorette, Betty was president of the French Club. She also carried the title Worthy Advisor of the Temple Assembly #46 Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a youth organization made up of daughters of Masons and Eastern Stars that trains in leadership through community service. “I had very active high school days,” she said.

After high school, Betty had been accepted to the University of Florida, but the summer before she was to start classes, “I was swept off my feet, and I married. So, I didn’t make it to the university,” she said. It was a short-term marriage, “a hiccup” Betty calls it. Though the marriage didn’t work out as planned, the couple did have four beautiful daughters together.      

Betty had been a stay-at-home mom, so after the divorce, it was a necessity that she begin working outside the home. She went into the dental supply business, where she met Weymouth “Bud” Reed, a native of Westside Jacksonville, a father of three who would become her second husband. He was in the outside sales division, and Betty worked on inside sales. They took a day off to elope in Georgia.

Betty and Bud Reed, 1974
Betty and Bud Reed, 1974

With seven children between them, Betty and Bud were known by their Jacksonville pastor as the fill-a-pew family at Dean Road Baptist Church, which no longer exists. They did not have any children together. “We decided we had done enough for our city,” Betty said in jest.

Another value Betty’s parents instilled in her was the importance of investing in people. She considers that to be one of the best lessons she passed on to her own children, to give to others before receiving things for themselves. “The value of people will be there. The value of money changes,” she said. She and Bud were steady volunteers at their church, first at Dean Road and then at First Coast Baptist on Blanding Boulevard, where Betty has been a member since 1990. “The theme of my life is to serve the Lord and to serve people,” she said.

The family had been living in Southside with Betty’s four, and Bud’s three on weekends. They moved to Mandarin in the early ’80s. One of their favorite things to do as a family was to pack homemade sandwiches, go boating on Pottsburg Creek, and picnic on a bank atop a tablecloth brought from home and spread on the ground.

Betty Reed’s blended family
Betty Reed’s blended family

Betty left the dental supply business and went, instead, into dental office administration. She retired, after a total of 35 years in the dental industry, from Drs. Edwards and Cavendish on Adams Street downtown in 2005. Bud’s career in sales lasted 45 years before he retired.

As they aged, Betty and Bud became interested in genealogy. They joined the Southern Genealogist’s Exchange Society that has a little library on 103rd Street, where they began doing research. That’s when Betty discovered that she had an ancestor who would qualify her to join DAR. She applied and was accepted. Another goal accomplished! She recently received her 20-year certificate. She is both an honorary regent and now a regent again, fulfilling another member’s term for the 1895-established Jacksonville chapter of the organization, which is the mother chapter for the entire state.

DAR’s three objectives of education, patriotism, and historic preservation suit Betty well, though the third is her weakest point, she admits. The first two, however, she shines at. Regarding education, reading to children “was just a perfect fit,” Betty said. Regarding patriotism, both of her brothers served in the military during the Korean War. “Most all of my male family members were in the military, and we were taught to respect the flag,” she said. Bud shared Betty’s sense of patriotism. “My husband and I were best friends, and we did everything together. I still speak like he’s here,” she said. Sadly, Bud passed away two years ago.

Reed family, Christmas 2007
Reed family, Christmas 2007

Though Betty misses her husband dearly, her life remains very full. With the blended family of Bud’s, she has 18 grandchildren and even more greatgrandchildren than that. In fact, at the time of this interview, Betty was preparing to drive a granddaughter to the hospital for a scheduled C-section, and another grandchild was pregnant. “We have a large family, and we are very close. I’ve spent a lot of time with them. We include everyone,” she said.

By Mary Wanser
Resident Community News

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