Kids follow cook’s example
Dec 18, 2009
Jonathon Braden, Columbia Daily Tribune
Drive pays tribute to ‘Ms. Betty.’
Eleven- and 12-year-olds dashed into the cafeteria all week armed with canned goods.
They’d stop near the designated barrels for sixth- and seventh-graders’ contributions, placing their donations inside. They were doing their part to honor Betty Stone, the former head cook at Lange Middle School who died unexpectedly from an illness Dec. 6 at age 57.
“Sixth grade is going to the top,” one student shouted, raising her arms as she walked by the food.
Lange staff and students wanted some way to honor “Ms. Betty” — some way to let the kids show what their former cook meant to them.
“There wouldn’t be anything more appropriate at this time,” said Michele Sterrett, a Lange media specialist, “than have her continue to feed the hungry.”
Now her family is without a wife, a mom and a grandmother. The school is without its lunch lady who carried the contagious chuckle and beautiful smile.
“She was nice that she gave me the best food and she didn’t slop it on my plate,” Ben Hughley said.
It’s a simple gesture, setting food on a 12-year-old’s dish rather than tossing it, but it’s what Ben remembers about Ms. Betty.
“She didn’t say much,” Ben said, “but she was nice.”
Her obituary said she enjoyed collecting coins, bicentennial items, penny banks and fishing.
But Lange staff and students cannot limit their list of Ms. Betty’s kind qualities to a few.
Cheri Guelbert, a special-education teacher at Lange, said whenever her students traveled on field trips, Ms. Betty always packed a few extra cookies for the journey.
Guelbert also had a student who needed pudding every day to eat with medicine. So every day, Ms. Betty would open the student’s can of pudding.
Kids sitting by themselves wouldn’t be alone for long; Ms. Betty would saunter over and say hello. Sometimes Ms. Betty even dug into her pocket, fetched some cash and paid for the kid who couldn’t buy food that day.
Jake Johnson, 12, brought in two rows of Happy Harvest canned food — “just to honor Ms. Betty,” Jake said.
He didn’t know much about her, he said, but he wanted to help.
Yesterday morning, the “Ms. Betty Still Feeds the Hungry” food drive ended, totaling 1,504 items and $20.
Teachers planned to chip in so the school could reach its goal of 1,600 items.
The seventh-grade students collected 32 more cans than the sixth-graders, winning an “all-expense paid trip to the food bank,” as Guelbert advertised it yesterday.
Today, students planned to drop off Ms. Betty’s last meals at the Central Missouri Food Bank.
Her obituary reads that she is survived by her husband, their children, her siblings and grandchildren.
Sterrett said she might add another group to that list — the students.
“I don’t think anybody who works with children ever truly dies,” Sterrett said. “In your own way, you live forever.”
< Back to News Articles