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Betsy Wagner – beloved Vicksburg library patron

Betsy Wagner and Brian Walny.

By Brian Walny, Head of Reference and Circulation Services, Vicksburg District Library

Betsy Wagner is a familiar face for many Vicksburg residents. This remarkable lady turns 90 years old in September and she’s incredibly active for her age. Her positive attitude and smile bring joy to the library staff when she comes for Bridge Club every Tuesday morning at the library. The middle child of five siblings, Betsy had two older brothers and two younger ones before they passed on. Betsy’s husband, Don, passed away in 2007. They were married 56 years! Their offspring, David, Bob, Mary, and Diane graduated from Vicksburg High School and have all gone on to lead successful lives.

When I asked Betsy if it was difficult to raise so many kids in a rural setting, she said that she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. “It takes a village,” Betsy said as she explained how the Vicksburg community helped raise her children. She worked at Griffin Place in the Suicide Intervention Program where she helped countless people get through difficult times.

Farm Girl Life

During Betsy’s childhood, young people had to be content with amusing themselves. She said she spent much of her time outdoors. Her family had one of the first swimming pools in town and the neighborhood kids would come over to cool off in the summer.

She fondly recalls playing hide and seek in the barn and jumping onto the haystacks. When she was 5 years old, after having spent another long day doing inside chores, she got up the next day and came in the house with a hoe and proclaimed to her father “I don’t like this boring inside stuff, I’m working outside with the men!” From that day on, her daily chores included working in the open fields. She also had the task of culling the rats that invaded the granaries using a pump action BB gun. She would hide outside in the hay and wait for them to come out before sending them to an early grave. She was even allowed to join in hunting — at age 5. Besides hunting deer for subsistence, she also helped train the family hunting dogs. She was always proud to be considered a “good shot.” Betsy hung up her hunting rifle at age 85 but she’s still available if you have a rat problem that needs solving.

Decades of Change

Betsy is amazed at the changes that have taken place during her lifetime. Her family had one of the first color televisions in Vicksburg and she remembers her living room full of kids watching Disney on Sunday afternoons. She fondly remembers watching the Moon landing and her son Bob exclaiming “I can see them on the moon!” The development of aircraft astonished Betsy. She remembers staring up in awe when they would fly over the Vicksburg skies. These days she enjoys using her iPad but still prefers reading books and interacting with family and friends to electronics.

Library Love

Betsy’s father taught her to read before she started elementary school. She’s been a bookworm ever since. “I read anything and everything,” Betsy proclaimed.

She’s a regular attendee at our library bridge club that meets weekly and often comes to see what’s new on our book shelves. When I asked what she likes most about coming to the library, she stated, “If you have any questions, the staff always either have the answer or they find a source that does.” She remembers checking out books and reading to her kids when they came home for lunch during grade school. They would sit at the kitchen table, and she would read to them, before sending them back out the door to finish their school day.

Life Lessons

Betsy doesn’t claim to have the answer to all that’s been going on in the world lately, but she did have some interesting tips for us. “Never stop learning and listen carefully when others are speaking with you. You can learn a lot if you really take the time to listen to others.” Betsy also says, “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and try new things, staying active keeps you young at heart!”

Birthday Celebration

Betsy’s daughters Mary and Diane have planned a “drop in” 90th Birthday Celebration on September 21st here at the Vicksburg District Library! The community is welcome to pop in and visit Betsy on that day – no presents are necessary!

Happy Birthday, Betsy Wagner!

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