COLERAIN - This month's honoree is Betty Lou Roth, a woman who has dedicated herself to bringing joy to those who are in a time of need.
For approximately 30 years, Roth has lived in Colerain with her daughter, Patty Jo, who nominated her. She was raised in Brookside, and graduated from high school in 1950. As a teenager, Roth was active as a cheerleader and member of the newspaper staff, among other clubs. She grew up on a farm and spent time with her grandparents, who she says may have inspired her to be generous throughout her life. When transients came knocking at her grandparents' door, Roth said her grandmother would not only let them in and cook them breakfast, but also send them off with a meal for later.
Roth worked as a teacher's aide in Lansing for an estimated nine years. She said she enjoyed her job, and was working on getting her teaching license. However, she changed her course to nursing when her husband, Arthur "Butsy," fell ill. She was 50 years old when she graduated Belmont Technical College as a licensed practical nurse.
T-L Photo/MOLLIE WARNER
BETTY LOU Roth is shown sitting on her porch at her home in Colerain. She is June’s Hey! That’s My Neighbor honoree, nominated by her daughter, Patty Jo Roth.
"I feel that was the best thing I ever did," said Roth.
Roth worked as a nurse at Heartland Nursing Center in Lansing for about 18 years, and then spent 12 years working in the long-term care unit at East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry. After some medical issues, Roth was no longer able to work as a nurse, but she took a new position in the Activity Department at EORH and worked in that capacity for three years.
Carol Saksa, who served as Director of Nursing at Heartland and Director of Long-Term Care at EORH, said that Roth was respected by all as a nurse.
"When I interviewed her for an LPN position, I knew there was something special about her," Saksa said. "She was always caring, compassionate and demonstrated excellent nursing skills and judgment."
Roth's care for patients did not end when she went home for the day. Over the years, Roth has opened her home to nursing home residents for a number of parties and picnics where she provided food and entertainment. The parties even had themes to go with the time of year, varying from luaus and Oktoberfest to Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day parties. Roth dressed up for the events, wearing grass skirts or a Pilgrim's outfit to suit the occasion.
"She must have worked endless hours to provide the food and entertainment," said Saksa. "It was always an enjoyable time for everyone, and the residents talked about the events forever. It was awesome to see the many facility vans lined up outside of Betty's house."
Roth's home is filled with gifts from former patients and hospital administrators, including blankets, plaques, clocks, trinkets and letters of gratitude.
"She took care of all the residents at [Heartland and EORH] very well," said Patty Jo. "The family members of these residents always did and still do tell my mom thanks for taking care of their mom, dad, sister, brother, etc."
Before her husband passed away, Roth used to make bean soup and coffee over an open fire with him, for residents of the nursing home. Saksa said the residents loved watching them prepare the meal.
As a nurse, Roth was proud to wear her white starched uniform with the traditional cap. She still has all her uniforms and nursing shoes. She cannot give them away, as the tradition has faded and nurses now favor scrubs in different colors. Roth even has kept up with her nursing license, though she doesn't know if she'll renew it again. She stays current on medical developments and information by reading nursing newsletters and watching medical television programs.
At 82 years old, Roth is now retired. However, that doesn't mean she has given up on generosity and caring. She and her daughter spend much of their time visiting hospices, nursing homes and long-term care units in hospitals. They always bring baked goods, including Roth's famous nut rolls. She has also given out prayer blankets, flowers and other items.
"I just love sitting with the residents and talking to them," said Roth. "Some of them don't get many visitors."
Roth's rounds include Heartland, EORH, Peterson's Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheeling, Cumberland Pointe Care Center in St.Clairsville, Shadyside Care Center, Liza's Valley Hospice, and Park Health Care. She's even traveled to Carriage Inn in Cadiz.
In addition to giving out baked goods, Roth plays games and works on crafts and puzzles with residents. She also escorts them outside for afternoon sunshine and singing events, according to EORG Volunteer Coordinator Denise Paxton.
"She loves watching the residents enjoy themselves and is glad to help in any way she can. If there is a word we can use to describe Betty Lou, it would be priceless," she said.
Roth also visits members of her church, St. Paul's Lutheran in Bridgeport. When members are unable to make it on Sundays due to illness, she gives them bulletins on the latest news. Roth also has contributed to her church with food for community events.
Though her volunteering takes up much of her time, Roth also likes to see her family, which includes daughters Patty Jo and Sue, son-in-law Rick, granddaughter Laura Sue and great-grandchildren Olivia and Tucker. Roth enjoys watching Olivia and Tucker's baseball games.
Roth would like to host another party this summer. The problem, she said, is that the facilities don't have the staff necessary to transport residents to her home as easily as they once did.
"I just want to keep going," she said.
"My mom has given so much of her time to her community in the past, still does in the present time, and plans to continue to do so in the future," said Patty Jo.
Warner may be reached at mwarner@timesleaderonline. com.