Down the Lane: Honoring Michael Rowady, Betty Smith

For as long as many in Winchester can ever remember there have been Michael Rowady and Betty Ratliff Smith.

I want to once again honor Mr. Rowady and remember Betty.

Rowady, who celebrated his 100th birthday last week at the Spindletop Hall in Lexington, sat as hundreds of his friends and some family members came by to congratulate him, hug him or reminisce with him.

He looked mighty festive in his attire adorned with his red bow tie and the smile on his face as he appeared to recognize and greet each person in the long line who waited patiently to tell him happy birthday.

It was so evident the people of Winchester held many memories of the longtime resident.

His life had influenced many people. It could have been as an attorney he had helped them through a time in their life in a court case. For others, it could have been they met him at many other areas throughout town where he was a part of the community.

I found myself wondering how many of those people in line had been regaled with his stories of the history of Winchester as my husband and I had on several occasions.

It seemed Mr. Rowady enjoyed so much in reliving the past. After all, he had been in the thick of things in Winchester since horse and buggy days and early automobiles.

His son, Alex, could not have done more to have made his dad’s 100th birthday more special as the guests ate a delicious meal while listening to a band.

When Kimberly Walson led the group in singing “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Rowady, every voice in the room seemed to join in.

I could not help but think how Mr. Rowady still looks as young at 100 years old as he did the first time I ever saw him.

His body has slowed down and he does not walk the streets of Winchester as he did throughout his life. However, his mind is still as sharp as ever, as Gardner Wagers pointed out to his wife, Susan and myself on our ride over to his party. That is pretty amazing considering his age.

I remember thinking he did not know how to drive or did not own a car as my friend Judy Adams, who used to work for him, would call me and ask if I could give him a ride out to the hospital on my way home from work. I obliged and, as usual, the ride to the hospital was busy with conversation. I think he used to ride out to visit a cousin there.

Later in life, Mr. Rowady would catch rides to and from meetings with anyone he could. It was not until this past year that I learned he did drive and own a car.

God has blessed Mr. Rowady with a long life. Maybe it has been for him to let us all know about our hometown a little more. I wish him the best.

Winchester lost a special member of our town with the death of Betty Ratliff Smith.

Though she had escaped death many years ago through her bout with breast cancer, the cancer finally entered her body again to take her life.

Betty and I had a personal friendship that lasted 50 years.

She would always be so sweet as I would call her about my homemaker news to have it put into the newspaper when she worked for years at The Winchester Sun.

She made everyone in town feel as though they had a personal relationship with her when she worked at the paper. She was on a first name basis with so many people and she knew everyone.

Later in life, she and I would walk and talk together in the Relay for Life as I too became ill with cancer. She seemed so happy for me when I told her it was dormant.

When I began writing my column, she always told me how much she enjoyed reading it. Hearing her brag on me meant a lot as she always mentioned something I had written.

Then, more recently, we would always sit together at the AARP meetings and talk. She told me her cancer had returned and I was so sad to hear this. I could tell for the first time ever there seemed to be a worry in her voice.

I went to see her at the hospital but she was sleeping peacefully and the change I saw in her tore at my heart to the point I had to leave.

As I entered Scobee Funeral Home to pay my last respects to her, I met Frank Vermillion, who had gone to school with Betty and had gotten his first kiss from her. Every time they met anywhere they gave one another a kiss. Frank’s wife Donna was well aware of this.

I mentioned to Frank his girlfriend was gone. He told me he had gone to visit her seven times in the hospital and each time gave her a kiss with the last few times seeing only a small smile across her face since she was to weak to respond any other way.

I could not help but think how precious that relationship had been through life. That is just how Betty was though.

If you ever met her, she left an impact on you forever. Thank you Betty for all the sweet memories.

Winchester will never forget you.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in her church, First United Methodist Church, and her homemakers group, Towne and Country Homemakers.