by Jenny Frankl
I first met her in the old Saar’s parking lot. Betty Lowe was the first corner greeter I met back in the summer of 2014, and what a corner greeter she was. I had shown up with an armful of irrigation tubing, brightly colored electrical tape, and a mini camp stove, and Ms.Betty immediately came to the rescue. I remember seeing her puzzled look about what all these things were going to be used for, but that didn’t stop her from offering to help. She gave me what I now know to be a famous Ms.Betty ”oh brother” sigh when I told her we would be making Hula-hoops. She signed up for two more corner greeter events, and sure enough, I saw her at both. I began to see her at more events in the neighborhood – the Boo Bash, the Back-2-School Bash, Art Walk RB, the Rainier Beach Night Out, and the list goes on. I also began to hear about all of the other spots she frequented regularly, the Seattle Public Library and Rainier Beach community dinners being primary among those. It didn’t take long for me to learn that Betty Lowe took her volunteer duties and her relationships in the community seriously.
Somewhere along the way, my relationship with Ms.Betty turned into a friendship. We started going to movies together regularly, and talking about how we both love Ark Lodge Cinema and David McRae, its faithful proprietor. We saw movies like Dear White People, Selma, and the Wedding Ringer – where she, a 60-something African-American woman, and I, a 30-something White woman, could openly discuss our different perspectives. We talked for hours on the phone, and confided in each other about our different situations. I came to treasure these conversations with her, as they always helped me keep a positive outlook, especially when things seemed hectic.
Betty Lowe was a ray of sunshine for me and so many others, the kind of person who made you light up as soon as you saw her. For those who had the privilege of knowing her, working with her, volunteering with her, being taught by her, being added to her ”prayer chain,” I am sure you feel the loss as I do. Sadly, Ms. Betty Lowe left this world on Memorial Day, May 31, news that hit me like a ton of bricks.
It’s interesting. When you work with someone in ”community,” and you see them regularly at events, at meetings, at celebrations, at the grocery store, the coffee shop, I guess you just think you are always going to see them around. It breaks my heart that I won’t see Ms.Betty Lowe at any of these places anymore. I found out about Betty’s passing late, one day after her memorial service. Since then, a wave of emotions has come over me – sadness, loss, regret, anger, and gratitude for just having known her. This news has made me think more about community, and what it means to work with people in community. It seems like I have been in several community events lately where I look around the room and am overwhelmed by how much I love and appreciate so many people who are there. It’s like I can’t hug people fast enough. My jaw hurts from smiling too much. We all share this love, passion, and commitment for the neighborhood, for different issues, whatever they may be. And while I know so many people in ”community,” do I really know what else is going on in their lives? Do they know what is going on in mine? Do they know that they are important to me? Do other people in my life know they are important to me?
The feeling of community is so powerful, yet it is often outside of our “home” life. Ms. Betty’s family wouldn’t necessarily know to contact so many of the people that she connected with on a regular basis in the community. Ms. Betty Lowe, you were important to me, I just want you to know. You were important to so many. I would give anything to tell you that one more time.