Betty Lou Garrett-Deeds
July 30, 1936 ‒ July 10, 2021
Betty Lou Garrett-Deeds
1936 – 2021
Born in New Boston, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Greenup County, Kentucky and Jesse Stuart’s “W Hollow,” growing up in the shadow of Detroit Steel, Betty was a precocious, curious child from the get go. As a young girl, she ran errands for her Mamaw all by herself, collected Papaw and brought him home in the evenings, and spent entire days at the local movie theater dreaming about someday having a glamorous life.
In 1946, her family moved from Appalachia, then home to dying factories and abandoned mines, and headed north. Betty moved between her mother’s Columbus home, and her grandparents’ home in New Boston. Betty’s grandmother made her read the newspaper to her every day, determined that, unlike her, Betty would be educated – able to read and write.
Betty attended Central High School in Columbus, graduating at the age of 16, Valedictorian of the Class of 1953. Nicknamed “Batty Betty” by her classmates, she participated in Bellows Art Club, Library Staff, Spanish Club, Outlook Staff – Editor in Chief, Yearbook Staff, Quill & Scroll, Latin Club, Kappa Psi, Future Teachers of America, Radio Productions (scriptwriter for the weekly broadcast), Journal Dispatch Representative, and Class Speaker.
After high school, she attended Capital University in Bexley, where her favorite professor, George Dell, taught English literature. Betty would marry the Professor’s son, Bob, and they would have three children.
In 1963, Betty began work as a copywriter for an advertising agency at Broad and High Streets in Columbus. She continued to send inquiries to newspapers throughout Ohio, and in 1965, she landed a job in the Women’s Department of The Columbus Citizen Journal (“CJ”). Betty thrived there, moving up through the paper’s ranks while receiving multiple awards from the Ohio Newspaper Women’s Association for news, features, interviews, and series, as well as honors from the National Newspaper Women’s Association for a feature on the Hayden, Kentucky mine disaster. She moved from the Women’s Department (“Society”), to Features, to the News Department, often covering stories with then husband, CJ photographer, Dick Garrett. They worked together on the CJ’s coverage of the Silver Bridge disaster, among many other stories, and Dick photographed the Beallsville families who sent a disproportionate number of their boys to Vietnam, many of whom never came home.
Betty interviewed prisoners and death row inmates, the rich and the poor, birdmen and snake charmers, evangelists and atheists, country crooners and classical pianists, Hollywood and local celebrities, grieving parents, politicians and astronauts, and in 1968, she wrote an award-winning series for the CJ called “Americans History Books Forgot…” delving into black history, from slaves first brought here from Europe, to slavery in the South and treatment of black Civil War Soldiers, to the role of blacks in shaping and taming the American West, to black influence on American music.
She counted celebrities and politicians among her friends, from Mount Vernon, Ohio-born Paul Lynde and Thurber junkie William Windom, to John Glenn and Woody Hayes (Betty worked with Woody after the “punchbowl,” assisting with a book relating history to football), and local celebrities like Bob Allen, a Columbus staple with his trio at poolside in the Christopher Inn, and clowns like Flippo, who always showed up at the house as Bob Marvin, much to the disappointment of her children.
After leaving the CJ, Betty did copious freelance work, writing op-ed columns in The New York Times and feature articles and essays for magazines, such as McCalls and Columbus Monthly. She was the first Senior Editor of Ohio Magazine, and finished her writing career sharing her work in the Short North Gazette. She also co-wrote a book, Columbus, America’s Crossroads (1980), a history of the City of Columbus, with Ed Lentz.
Betty had a fiery spirit, quick wit, and an astounding passion for writing, possessing an uncanny ability to paint portraits of her subjects using the written word as her brush. She was empathetic to troubles, and always treated her subjects with respect, regardless of their standing in the world.
Betty is preceded in death by sons, Robert Dell, Jr., and Chris Dell; parents, Charles Alexander, and Essie Susan Morton; and survived by daughters, Kirsten (Rusty Bell) Dell and Emily (Lindsey) Carter; grandchildren, Renee Kuhler, Sarah (Isaac) Welch, and Daniel Kuhler; great grandchildren, Jesse Inglish and Bryleigh Welch; nephew, Brian Morton; niece, Jenni (Kevin) Shuford; niece, Cheri Clark; fellow reporter, Carolyn Focht of The Columbus Dispatch; dear friend of 70 years, Beverly Childress, best buddy, Gretchen Wolford; and good neighbor, Rick Smale.
The DeVore-Snyder Funeral Home in Sunbury is assisting the family.
To share a fond memory of Betty or to offer a condolence to her family, please visit www.snyderfuneralhomes.com
Private interment at Fancher Cemetery. If you wish to acknowledge Betty, please consider donating to the American Cancer Society or SourcePoint of Delaware County.
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