Betty McWilliams enjoys helping others
More than 50 years have passed since the historic day in Monessen.
But Betty McWilliams still counts among the most memorable events in her life the day that then-President John F. Kennedy came to her hometown.
On Oct. 13, 1962, Kennedy spoke to a crowd estimated at 25,000. The address, given from a stage on the Sixth Street side of the A&P parking lot on Donner Avenue, was a part of a mid-term campaign tour in southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Monessen stop was one of several on a day trip that included McKeesport, Pittsburgh, Washington, Pa., and Aliquippa.
McWilliams traveled to downtown to see Kennedy give his speech.
“I couldn't get real close because there were a lot of people there,” McWilliams said. “But I enjoyed it very much.
“I got a lot of encouragement from what he had to say that day.”
Born and raised in Monessen, McWilliams was born on Morgan Street in the city before growing up on Ninth Street.
“Growing up there, it was nice during my days,” McWilliams said.
After leaving high school, she went to work at Country Home, now Westmoreland Manor. She then worked for the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Aspinwall.
McWilliams, who earned an assistant nurses aid degree in 1995, said her work was very gratifying.
In her home, she has two plaques recognizing her service at the VA Hospital.
“It was very rewarding helping the patients,” McWilliams said. “The patients were always nice to me. They appreciated what I did for them and their families appreciated me taking care of their fathers and husbands.”
After retiring in 1995, McWilliams joined the Mon Valley Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She is currently serving as second vice president of the Mon Valley chapter.
McWilliams plans events for the NAACP, including its annual banquet. She received a plaque from the NAACP recognizing her service.
McWilliams married her late husband Eugene in 1950. They grew up together. He was a self employed auto repairman.
She has two sons, Irvin McWilliams of Monessen, and the late Thomas McWilliams. She also has five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
McWilliams enjoys spending time at the Monessen Senior Center. She plays cards at the center. On Mondays and Wednesdays, she goes to the center bingo. McWilliams also enjoys the parties at the center and just being with friends.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.