“It was my birthday present,” Betty said after the concert.
Performing for Betty was a treat for Janet Blessing, director of the ensemble, and the boys. “I hate for people to say all these good things after people are gone. We wanted to do it for Betty,” Felice said.
The Smoot family has had a major impact on the Parkersburg, West Virginia community. Betty, her sister and others helped save the historic theater in Parkersburg from being demolished and turned into a parking lot in 1989. She also is a part of the family that owned the Camden Theatre in Parkersburg in the early 1900s before it was destroyed by fire in 1929. Her family later purchased the Smoot Theatre, built in 1926 as a vaudeville house. Her father and uncle who owned the theaters were civic-minded men who worked in advertising and promoted events at the Smoot Theatre.
The Smoot Theatre was purchased by Warner Brothers in 1930 and for 56 years was primarily a movie theater. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. When Betty and others helped save it in 1989, it was returned to a performing arts theater and continues to provide live entertainment with the help of volunteers.
Betty grew up watching troupes perform at the Smoot Theatre, and as legend has it, she once sneaked on stage and sang along with performers until she was picked up and carried off stage, said Michelle VanNoy, the independent living activities coordinator at Glenwood.
As an adult, Betty was active in the community and at the theater. She attended shows, especially concerts by the boys’ ensemble, sat on stage and educated the boys on the history of the theater and networked with local politicians.
“This is a tribute to Betty and her family and all the good work she has done for the theater and all the good work she has done in the community. She cares about people. She is truly one of those kinds of people who is altruistic and a giving soul,” Michelle said. “She is generous with her spirit and she has all of the core values that United Church Homes is about.”
Gabriel Bookman, 13, of Belpre, Ohio, who has been member of the choir for two years, said singing for Betty and the family who founded the theater was special.
“The theater holds a special place in my heart and it will for a long time,” Gabriel said. “I felt like I was doing something that was always intended. Typically, when you go into things like this you don’t expect to sing to her in this special of a time. It makes her so happy. It’s like traveling in a time machine.”
Betty’s daughters, Susan Budros, of Columbus, Ohio, Becky Miller, of Perrysburg, Ohio, and Cookie Smith, of Evansville, Indiana, said the concert was special for them and their mother.
“At 99, she’s very happy to have this evening. This is really wonderful because she loves this choir,” Becky said. “We all live out of town so to come back and experience this with Mom is great.”
Bringing the concert to Betty gave her a treat her daughters didn’t think she would have again because it has become challenging for their mom to go to the theater.
“I don’t think there’s been anything like this for Mom. It’s over the top for her,” Susan said.