Betts celebrates 100th birthday

CHIPLEY – From trailblazer to patriot, Jeanne Betts of Chipley has held many titles in her lifetime. On Tuesday, April 6, 2021, she added one more: Centenarian.

Betts commemorated her 100th birthday at Northwest Florida Community HospitalÂ’s third floor Skilled Nursing Unit with cake, presents, and a visit from her daughters, Mary Betts Syfrett and Peggy Betts.

While COVID precautions prevented a large celebration, the pandemic didnÂ’t keep Betts from sharing her birthday cake with her fellow third floor residents. Thinking of and serving others has been a way of life for Betts.

Perhaps most notable among her service is that to the U.S. Marine Corps as a member of the Women’s Reserve Battalion, making her one of the nation’s few remaining female WWII veterans – and a pioneer who helped forever change the way women were viewed in the U.S. Armed Services.

“There was a call put out to women that said, ‘Join the service and free a man for active duty overseas,’” Betts told The News in an earlier interview. “While having women in the armed services was a new concept, many of us did respond.”

Betts received boot camp training at North CarolinaÂ’s Camp Lejeune in 1944, and while female recruits were offered a softer, modified training, Betts opted for the tougher course. Despite having never before held a gun, Betts, then 23, proved to be a natural on the firing range after hitting a bullÂ’s-eye on her first shot.

After completing her time in the armed forces, Betts continued to serve others, this time closer to home.

Betts was a charter member of the Holmes-Washington ARC Board of Directors, as well as an ambassador for the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, and a board member with the Chipley Redevelopment Agency. Betts also taught the Good Will Sunday School Class at the First United Methodist Church of Chipley for more than 50 years.

Betts has two grandchildren, Laura Syfrett and David Syfrett, and two great-grandchildren, Brady Syfrett Ryan and Maddie Syfrett.