Today, Cheryl and I attended the funeral of Betty Baldree. Until she retired not too long ago, Betty was the switchboard operator and receptionist at Lee University, a position she had held for nearly fifty years. In Cleveland she was affectionately known as “the voice of Lee.” Pastor Kelvin Page used that theme in his eulogy. He observed that Betty had a voice that communicated a smile. Indeed, she welcomed everyone into her presence and with her onto the university campus, even if only by phone.
Betty was a special friend to us on two personal fronts. First, she was the wife and widow of Dr. J. Martin Baldree. Martin was our professor, mentor and friend. He was one of the first Pentecostals in the world to earn an accredited doctoral degree in religion. I had met Martin’s father at a Lee family reunion when I was a kid. Martin’s maternal grandmother was a Lee from Billy’s Island in the Okefenokee. She was my Great Grandmother’s sister, I believe, at least they were closely related.
On a second front, in the mid eighties we lived in Martin’s and Betty’s house for two years. Martin took a leave of absence from Lee College (University) to help Oral Roberts University start a master’s degree in Christian Education. That was a special two years, Karisa was a baby in their house. We felt at home there.
I don’t know a lot about Betty personally. I know she loved her family, her work, Lee University, and her church, the Westmore Church of God. I know a few details about her life but mostly I know she made me and thousands of others feel like we were important to her. She smiled on everyone she met and I am thankful for having known her.
September 21, 2010