A Legendary Lady, Mrs. Bettye Campbell

When the great ones leave us, they leave us with a lump in our throat and an ache in our heart.  We find ourselves wondering how we ever got along before they were here.

Bettye Campbell and Coach Wyman Townsel being inducted into the Choctawhatchee H.S. Hall of Fame
Bettye Campbell and Coach Wyman Townsel being inducted into the Choctawhatchee H.S. Hall of Fame

Such is the case with Bettye H. Campbell, who left us the morning of October 7, 2015 to go to a better place. She brought so much happiness to so many young people for so many years, we wonder how we did it before we knew her. She was 88 years young.

Her peaceful passing in her sleep as described by her son, Jimmy, is so deserving of a woman that was so kind and so generous to others.

Mrs. Campbell, known as “Miss Bettye” to most, made her mark by serving others. One of her staples was preparing her home cooked meals to customers at her restaurant, Mother Earth’s. Lunchtime was her favorite, when she could share time with the customers.

But, who loves good, home cooked meals more than teenagers? And what teenagers better to be a recipient of Bettye’s meals than the only game in town at the time.  The Choctawhatchee Indians.

Beginning with the Choctaw Booster Club (later known as the Touchdown Club) where her and her husband Pat were charter members, Mrs. Campbell began dishing out the cooking for the football team. The meals kept coming, and coming.  Heck, they could have flagged her for 15 yards for “piling on” there was so much of it.

Next, she got involved heavily in the Choctaw Band Parents organization.  Have you ever been a band parent?  Do you know anyone who works harder than band parents?

And not much later came the “Tipoff Club” for Choctaw Basketball, where former coaches Benny Gabbard and Marc Tisza moved aside and let her do her thing.

Bettye Campbell and her family after being inducted into the All Sports Association's Hall of Fame in 2006
Bettye Campbell and her family after being inducted into the All Sports Association’s Hall of Fame in 2006

“Wonderful lady, wonderful supporter of Choctaw athletics,” said Tisza when discussing Bettye’s life of service. “She ran the hospitality suite for visiting coaches during the Christmas holidays at the Playground Area Shootout from its inception in 1977 until the late 1990’s. But, even though she stepped aside then, her banana pudding was still a staple at the Shootout until I retired from coaching (2011).

“Jerry Brigante was so proud that the visiting coaches from Kentucky had he and Benny (Coach Gabbard) named Honorary Kentucky Colonels. I used to kid him that it if it wasn’t for Bettye’s cooking and banana pudding, it wouldn’t have happened,” Tisza kiddingly said.

What was unique about Bettye is that her service carried on long after her children passed through Choctaw. And she has been honored for it.

She’s been named Grand Marshall of the homecoming parade. Twice.

Because of her and Pat’s contribution, the baseball field at Choctaw is named after them both. “Campbell Field.”

In 1976, the All Sports Association presented her with their highest honor, the Col. Al Byrne Award for service to area youth. The first ever woman to receive the award.

Grand Marshall of Homecoming 2006, Ms. Bettye Campbell
Grand Marshall of Homecoming 2006, Ms. Bettye Campbell

Fast forward 40 years to 2006, and the All Sports Association honored her again with the newest, highest honor, induction into the All Sports Hall of Fame. Again, the first woman enshrined.

Funeral services will be held on Saturday, October 10th at Shalimar United Methodist Church at 10:00am. There will be many there who will be paying their respects to someone who made such a difference in their lives when they were younger.

Probably one of the best goodbyes written to her was by her grandson, Chris Klein, earlier this morning on Facebook.

“Early this morning I lost my best friend of 30 years. The woman who took care of me as a kid. The woman who had cheese grits or cottage cheese and peaches waiting on me every morning when I came over. The woman who checked me out of school early just so we could watch Braves games on TV together. The woman who took me to spring training baseball games and every Choctaw football game home or away. The woman who every time she made banana pudding made an extra batch just for me. The woman who every time I spent the night we would fall asleep holding hands. I love you mommom.”

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