Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Features / Living

January 12, 2014


Betty Williams has boosted others’ self-esteem for a half century

Hair dryers hummed. Brush rollers were checked. It was time for the great comb out at Cleburne’s Colonial Manor.

Volunteers from Granbury St. Church of Christ arrived earlier, greeted by some residents, fresh from their baths, lined up in wheelchairs. They told me they looked forward to Beauty Shop Day since last Thursday.

Betty Williams began the favor more than 50 years ago.

“The late Mildred King and I saw the need for this ministry when Kate Long, a member of our church and a resident at Cleburne Health Care then, asked if we could give her a permanent wave,” Williams said. “After that, her roommate said she would love to have her hair done, too.”

Church friends volunteered to help.

“At Cleburne Health Care they had no beauty shop facilities at the beginning,” Williams said. “So, after they had their showers, we washed their hair in the bathroom sink, using a dish drainer and a board. We colored, cut and gave perms. Sometimes we would have 35 or 40 ladies waiting for us. We furnished our own supplies. Donations helped.”

Eventually CHC added a beauty shop area. The center eventually closed, and residents were moved to Colonial Manor about a year ago, she said.

The volunteers never missed an opportunity and continued their ministry ... following them there.

I wondered about Williams’ childhood and where she learned to serve others.

She was born near Soper, Okla., to Luther and Lucy Burchfield Butler.

“We moved to Slaton, Texas, when I was a baby,” Williams said. “Daddy died when I was 9 in 1932, and Mother had to find a way to support us. We moved in 1936 to Toadlena, N.M., to a Navajo Native American reservation boarding school, where Mother became the cook for the teachers ... three meals a day for 30 teachers. The Navajo children had another cook.”

Betty said she was not allowed to attend the reservation school, so she attended a one-room school with six grades taught by one teacher. Since it was three miles away, she was grateful to an aunt who gave her a boy’s bicycle to ride.

Her aunt and uncle owned and operated Drolet Trading Post at Tohatche on Route 66, she said. It was on the edge of the reservation and furs were traded by the Navajo for food and supplies there.

They moved back to Slaton when Betty began sixth-grade.

“For some reason my sister, Lucille, was assigned to one school and I was to go to another,” Williams said. “I had to walk across a busy highway to get to mine. Mrs. Fry, my sister’s teacher, noticed what I had to do. She made arrangements for us to go to the same school. I have always loved her for that.”

After one year at Slaton, they moved to Lubbock, where Betty encountered a much larger junior high. She was thrilled to find that Mrs. Fry was teaching in Lubbock by then.

“Mrs. Fry was calling the roll and stopped when she saw my name,” Williams said. “She looked up and said, ‘Betty Jo! You were in school at Slaton!’ I was so glad she was there.”

Meeting someone else, however, would affect her life even more.

“When I was 17, mutual friends introduced Ray Williams to me,” she said. “We met in March and married in April that year — one month later. He was 19, and was driving a butane truck for a living.

“Neither one of us could get a marriage license without our parents signing for us, so we went by my house and got my mother and drove to the grocery store where we knew his mother was shopping and took them to the courthouse,” Williams said. “It was fine with them. We were married at a Baptist preacher’s house.”

By the next year Ray was drafted into the U.S. Army and received basic training at Fort Sill, Okla. After he was stationed at Ft. Louis, Wash., Lee Williams, Ray’s father, said he would drive Betty to join him.

“I didn’t have a driver’s license, so I took my driving test and failed it,” Betty Williams said. “I had told the man giving me the test where we were going. He asked me after I failed, ‘Well, are you going to Washington anyway?’

“I said, ‘I sure am. I’m leaving early in the morning.’ He gave me the license.”

After Ray served a year in Germany, the young family lived in Lubbock. Ray joined his father in his concrete business, making contacts and figuring jobs.

They moved to Cleburne, where Ray worked with Paden Construction. By 1966, he had opened his own business, DSA. The family-owned designing, supervision and accounting construction business continues in operation today at 207 N. Ridgeway Drive.

Ray Williams died in February 2003. He and Betty had been married 63 years and were active members of Granbury St. Church of Christ since they moved to Cleburne in 1958. They have three children, Fairy George (Joe); Beverly Holden (Cliff) and Kent Williams of Cleburne. Kent’s wife, Jamie, is deceased. They have seven grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.

“Serving others has always been Mother’s life,” Fairy said. “I remember her driving people to doctor’s appointments and providing meals at church. She always sewed for Beverly and me.”    

“Mother has always been there for babysitting for our children,” Beverly said. “Our children would say as we drove by the nursing home, ‘That’s where Mammaw works!’ Some of them eventually worked alongside her, learning how to relate to older people.”

“Oh, our residents look forward to getting their hair done,” said Annette Amerson, activities director of Colonial Manor. “They always ask me about it the day before. The ladies who come to us here are so gracious ... so patient. No one is ever turned away.”

I watched as Bess Yates, Patsy Moxon, Melinda Norman and Betty finished up their work. They had supplied the beauty aids through the ministry budget of their church. If the money runs short, they pay it themselves.

Since they are not licensed hair dressers they are no longer allowed to use chemicals or to cut hair.

Often people will see Betty, now 90, and ask, “Are you still doing hair at the nursing home?”

Invariably they add, “I just want you to know. My mother really loved that.”


Larue Barnes may

be reached at










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