Former Boone Memorial Hospital employee Betsy White has donated $25,000 to the new Boone Memorial Hospital facility with a room in the radiology department to be named in honor of her family, particularly her late husband Doug and her late daughter Tira.
Prior to BMH opening its doors in 1964, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done in setting up the facility to receive patients. Betsy White was the very first employee in the radiology department and came on board in 1963.
“When I graduated high school, I knew that I wanted to work in the medical field,” she said. “Helping others is what appealed to me the most about that kind of work.”
A 1957 graduate of Scott High School in Madison, White wanted to enter nursing school but she felt that it would be a financial burden on her parents. She learned of certification offered through Charleston Area Medical Center that would be accepting students for the x-ray technician program.
“At that time, I was attracted to that because I could work while in school and receive a stipend that would allow me to earn money while I studied and ease the burden on my parents,” said White. “I started my training five days after graduating high school. It was a two-year program and I really enjoyed it.”
White hoped that one day there would be a hospital in Boone County that she could work at because in the days before U.S. 119, a trek to Charleston involved a winding drive through Drawdy and over Lens Creek Mountain --- a trip made particularly treacherous in a winter snow.
Prior to her accepting employment with the new hospital, White had married Doug White and the couple welcomed their first daughter Kim into the world. She would shed her maiden name of Ross.
“Let me tell you, being named “Betsy Ross” was not particularly a good thing growing up,” she said with a smile. “I still don’t know what my mother was thinking. It was intentional and my mother’s heart was in the right place but it caused me a lot of problems with billing and things like that. People questioned if it was an error and if it was really my name.”
Through her training, Ross focused on what was referred to in the 1950s and 1960s as “deep x-ray therapy” as a treatment for cancer patients. She focused on that treatment in her work in Charleston.
“I became so attached to my patients,” she said. “I positioned the patients and through the direction of their doctor, administered the precise amount of kilo voltage to treat their cancer.”
Once a position opened up at the new Boone Memorial Hospital in 1963, she gladly accepted.
“I can remember the excitement in the community at that time,” she said. “It was such a big deal to have our very own hospital in Boone County. I took great pride in working there.”
She noted the hospital’s first two administrators as being pivotal in the early years. Carl F. Cline and Tommy H. Mullins left an impression on the young employee.
“They were leaders,” she said. “They left a positive impression on me.”
She remembers radiology employees Alice Childers and Carolyn Miller and she remembers how busy it was when the hospital first opened.
“We had people waiting in the halls to be seen,” she said. “At that time, we had a radiologist come down from Charleston. On that day, we would have people lined up from the x-ray room to the front door.”
White’s time at BMH lasted over a decade before she joined her husband in his mobile home sales business and his real estate venture.
“It was an exciting time,” she said. “Those were among some of the very first mobile homes in this area. I took a position in the office.”
White jokes about the relationship she shared with her late husband. She kept a note on her desk visible for all to see.
“It said, “even though you know he’s wrong, he’s still the boss” and I had a lot of fun with that,” she said laughing.
The young mother found the schedule flexibility attractive and she enjoyed the work and she enjoyed her customers. Five years after the birth of Kim, the couple had their second daughter, Tira. White’s Mobile Homes, Inc. had two locations, one on Route 17 and another on U.S. 119.
“My husband was a worker,” she said. “When he wasn’t working he was thinking about how to make the business grow. He loved to golf and loved to swim and jog. He was very active and was very athletic. He loved to sell things. He loved the real estate market. He was a real entrepreneur.”
In what is today a very developed neighborhood, the White’s purchased as much land on Miller Hill as they could. Doug White enjoyed purchasing land that he projected would someday be desirable for residential development.
Over 35 years ago, Betsy White suffered through breast cancer. Through treatments and continued regular scans, she is healthy today.
“There is a lot of cancer in my family,” she said. “My mother passed away at 92 and she fought breast cancer for 15 years.”
In the 1980s, the couple retired and spent their time traveling. White, 77 is witty and charming and exudes a youthful energy when recalling the past and her love for Boone County.
“There is something really special about Boone County people,” she said. “They are like no others.”
White does her part to stay fit and healthy.
“I enjoy exercising --- I keep moving and I eat properly,” she said. “I think positively regardless of the situation.”
White has suffered loss in recent years, Doug passed away five years go this year and two years prior to that, daughter Tira was killed in an automobile accident.
“Regardless of our heartaches in this life,” she said. “It’s important to remember that we are still blessed.”
Today, White is active in Madison Baptist Church and the Julia Price Breast Cancer Foundation. She spends time at her home in Madison where she helps care for her daughter Kim, 56 who suffered a cerebral aneurysm and after surgery, a stroke. She was left paralyzed on her left side. Kim worked as a chef near Asheville, North Carolina when she became ill in 2007.
“She is my priority and she is my baby,” said her mother. “I want the best for her and I want her to remain active and moving as much as possible. She is doing very well and I’m proud of her.”
In relation to her donation to Boone Memorial Hospital, White calls it an honor to be able to contribute.
“I was inspired by those early days working at the hospital,” she said. “I just have so many wonderful memories and they are a part of me. I’ve lived here all my life and I made my living in this community. It pleases me to be able to do something for the hospital. It has touched so many lives over the years, including mine.”
To learn more about the Boone Memorial Hospital Capital Campaign, contact campaign director Denver Allen at 304-539-2242 or visit bmh.org.
Pictured L-R: Betsy White with her daughter Kim White