Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fearless Females: March 28 Best Friend

In celebration of Women’s History Month, Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has presented 31 prompts to honor the “fearless females” in our family trees.

Today’s prompt:  Do you remember your mother’s best friend? Your grandmother’s? How and where did they meet? How long were they friends? What activities did they share?

Mary E. Slade and Cradock High School friends about 1946
Joan Palmer (Stainback), Mary E. Davis (Slade),
Betsy Ward (Delcambre), Unknown,
Cookie Spencer (Muter)

My mother and her high school friends were much like the girls in “Ya Ya Sisterhood” or “Sex and the City”:  friends for life.  I don’t know the particulars of how they met but it was probably in school, like most people. 

Betsy Ward (later Lumsden, then Gray, then Delcambre) and Momma were probably the prettiest and most popular in their class at Cradock High School in Portsmouth, Virginia, in the mid-1940s.  They were cheerleaders.  Not surprisingly they were also on the Homecoming Court.  And they dated the handsome and popular boys.

Tommy Watson, Betsy Ward, Mary E. Davis, Dickie Blanks
at the Palomar Beach Club 1945

In the summer, they often went to the beach.  This photo of Betsy captures the Betsy I knew:  she was funny and enjoyed a good joke.  I imagine this sexy pose was followed by a fit of giggles, knowing Betsy.

Betsy Ward Lumsden, Gray, Delcambre

The friends graduated from high school in 1946 but went to separate colleges.  Betsy’s message on the back of her school photo captures the sentiment that described their friendship for many years:

Dec. ‘46
Dearest Mary E. (My late date gal),
You know how crazy I am about you and I’ll always think of you more as a sister than just a friend.
I know that we will be together loads in the years to come and I hope nothing ever happens to end our friendship.
I hope that we will continue being as close and sharing as much as we have in the past.
Be a good gal, but have a good time.
Love you muy mucho,

And they did remain close for many years, it’s true.  But they did drift apart for quite awhile until they were united again in the most unpleasant of circumstances:  chemo.  Such a strange coincidence too is that both had ovarian cancer.  

The last time I saw Betsy was in October 2005 when she brought flowers to the house after hearing from the nurses that Momma had died.  Betsy died a year and a half later.  

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. How great that you were able to know Betsy. It wasn't until this prompt that I realized I never even knew who my mother's BFF was. Since she's still living, I'll have to ask her. Your mother and Betsy were definitely lookers!

  2. Your mom and Betsy were really lucky to have each other. Best friends are so important. I have two, and I don't know what I'd do without either of them.

    Happy Thursday!

  3. Very cool photos! What a lovely note on the photo...when my husband's grandmother let me look through her cedar chest she had her prom dance card. You signed up to dance with someone for each dance ahead of time. I love that idea :)

  4. When I was little I thought Betsy was our aunt,LOL. She was funny, well all of Momma's friends were funny, but there was something really special about her. I always loved going to her house on Christmas day. I surely miss all those gals of Momma's. It was weird that they both got Ovarian Cancer.