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One woman's legacy: Betty Smith

Published Monday 6 June 2016
  • Aged Care
  • Albert Street Church
As part of the 80 year celebrations of the Wheller Gardens site, Wesley Mission Queensland opened the Betty Smith Heritage Precinct in honour of a wonderful woman whose service to her friends, the community, and the church lasted a lifetime.

Ann Elizabeth ‘Betty’ Smith was born in Brisbane in 1916. As a child, Betty regularly attended church with her parents and older brother, Frederick Richard (Dick) Smith.

Betty found profound meaning and fellowship in church life. In the 1940s she joined the Ann Street Presbyterian Church and, never one to be idle, dedicated herself to teaching Sunday School, coordinating camps, running the church drama group and serving as a member of the State Council of the Presbyterian Fellowship.

It was her love of books and writing, though, that would steer Betty’s professional aspirations. In the 1950s she joined the youth department of the Ann Street Presbyterian Church, where she wrote Sunday School lessons for the Presbyterian/Methodist Board of Christian Education. She also wrote several children’s books on bible stories – books that have been translated into seven languages and sold all around the world.

For her services to religious education, Betty was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the British Empire) by the Queen. Betty regarded this as a great honour; all those around her agreed it was richly deserved.

In 1977, Betty joined Albert Street Uniting Church, where her ongoing dedication, commitment, and faith touched the lives of everyone who met her. She volunteered in the church office twice a week; she edited the church quarterly magazine, ‘Encounter’; she wrote poems, liturgies, and carols for the School of Seniors; she graced the stage in church drama performances; she gave great insight at meetings of the Elders Committee; and she took great care in writing up the Marriage Register and Baptism Register in her pristine cursive handwriting.

Though Betty never married, she built a large loving family around her – comprised of her relatives, her friends, her congregation, her colleagues, and her three beloved cats.

Those closest to Betty will always hold tight to the warm memory of their loving, thoughtful and kind friend. When Betty passed away in 2007, she left a generous bequest in her Will to Wesley Mission Queensland, ensuring that she could, in some way, continue to help the community she loved.

Wesley Mission Queensland’s CEO, Geoff Batkin, hopes that the Betty Smith Heritage Precinct will serve to honour the life work of such a dedicated Queenslander, church member, and dear friend.

“Thanks to the generosity of people like Betty Smith, Wesley Mission Queensland is able to continue to serve the community in which we work, much in the way that Betty did her whole life,” he said. “The Betty Smith Heritage Precinct will consist of three original Marchant cottages that were built for aging Queenslanders in the 1930s, restored to their original condition.

“I am continually inspired by people like Betty and her selfless dedication to the community in which she lived, and I hope, by remembering her in this way, that we can keep the spirit of that dedication alive.”

Betty’s love of music was known to all. In one of her favourite hymns, The Lord is My Light, there is a line that reflects Betty’s life; ‘...walking by faith, I am blessed every hour.’

And blessed are those who knew Betty Smith.