Living Grand: Betty Bynes

Listening to Betty Bynes describe her childhood in Macon, GA, the city sounds straight out of a Frank Capra movie.

Like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but with a pronounced drawl. 

The city, located 100 miles south of Atlanta, was big enough to have two colleges – Wesleyan Conservatory and Mercer University – but small enough that it seemed like young Betty saw someone she knew everywhere she went. There was no snow in the winter, but it did sometimes get cold enough for ice.

“We had two lakes, and everybody would go out when they would ice over, because it was like a fairyland,” said Bynes, who will turn 93 in January. “It was the kind of place that nobody ever got in trouble, because there were always eyes looking out.”

Betty feels lucky to have grown up in that environment, and she would have spent her entire life there if given the opportunity. But her husband, who she met in a church group for singles, was an engineer from Texas. When he got a job offer in Houston, they packed up and moved. Instead of working as a dental hygienist like she planned, Betty launched a 30-year career in the oil and gas industry. 

Houston presented its own opportunities. Betty is a longtime volunteer at MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Harris County Historical Society and has been an active member of St. Paul’s Methodist Church for 65 years. She and her husband were avid golfers, and Betty acted as scorekeeper for professional golfer Ben Crenshaw when he played at the Houston Open in 1973. 

“He was so young, and he had a gallery of older ladies and younger ladies,” Betty said. “He was very much a gentleman.” 

Betty’s husband died in 2013, and the couple’s two daughters lived in California. She has no other family nearby, but she still has a strong community in Houston – friends from church and her other activities who supported her through two bouts with cervical cancer. 

“When you’re involved in a church for 65 years, you have friends. You have extended family,” she said. 

Staying connected

Betty is social by nature and loves gathering with friends, but staying connected with relatives who live several states away is not always easy.

For years, Betty had a tiny iPhone that worked well for phone calls, but the small screen was cramped for viewing the photos her daughters shared. 

Her daughters gifted her a GrandPad after getting a recommendation from a friend, but Betty wasn’t an immediate convert. At first, all she saw was that she could play games, and she asked her daughter Leslie to send the GrandPad back. All it took was a call from GrandPad customer service to introduce Betty to the full capabilities of the GrandPad. 

From there on, Betty was a believer. She learned how to access the GrandPad’s photo stream and used the device to follow the progress as Leslie and her husband built a new house in Mississippi. And while she still prefers her cell phone for calling, she continues to use her GrandPad to view photos from family gatherings and other activities. She also uses the GrandPad to attend church services now that she can’t attend in person. 

“It’s really neat to have all of the photos, so if they go on a trip or the children are involved in a different activity, I can feel like I’m there,” Betty said. “It makes me smile every day. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is look at the photos.” 

The ability to share those moments has been especially important during the pandemic. 

“The GrandPad kept us in touch, because being apart was just so sad,” said Leslie, who went 18 months without seeing her mother. “Last year was the first Christmas I hadn’t spent with her, but we were able to share everything with her. She was there opening presents.” 

Those experiences have made Betty an enthusiastic advocate for GrandPad.

“I could sell GrandPads,” she said. “I’m not a salesperson, but I could sell them.”