June 26 was declared Betty Collins Day in Beech Grove ... and rightfully so as her decades of service as a teacher and as a member of Zeta Theta chapter of Kappa Kappa Kappa were recognized. As a tribute to that service, a bench and a plaque were dedicated in her honor at Hornet Park Elementary School, where she spent years teaching and volunteering as a reading specialist.
Collins, 95, also taught at Central Elementary and Indianapolis Public Schools and was a professor of education at the University of Indianapolis for 20 years. “I just liked education and teaching people. I got more out of it than my students. I loved all of my students. Teaching is so much different now than when I started.”
“Today’s teachers have to meet the needs of so many diverse students with so many different needs.” The bench and ceremony came as surprise to Collins. “My sorority sisters (they number about 40) had me believing that we were going to a PTA meeting.”
And it wasn’t any ordinary store-bought bench. This one was a labor of love as Tri Kappa members collected 400 pounds of plastic bottle caps – or about 10 55-gallon trash bags – which were hauled to Evansville, where they were melted down and fabricated into the bench. The collection process took about 10 months.
“The women went to a lot of work for me,” said Collins, who was one of the first members installed into the chapter in 1961. “I don’t do as much as I used to. I really enjoy working with women of all ages to better the community, to award scholarships and to meet the needs of the community.”
Sharon Lawson, a Tri Kappa since 1989, said Collins is dedicated to the group’s goals: culture, charity and education. Collins was born Sept. 20, 1922, and served with the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) in Miami as a naval radio operator for two years during World War II. She has two children, Clayton “Kit” (Ann) Collins and Claudia (Nolan) Allen, three grandchildren and two-great-grandchildren. Her husband, Clayton, died in 1991. She enjoys getting on Facebook so she can see what her former students are doing. Collins, who until a few years ago still volunteered at Hornet Park, is known for her spot-on portrayal of Sarah T. Bolton, a renowned poet and activist who lived in Beech Grove from 1871-1893.
“I thought residents needed to know who our park was named after,” she said. “I dressed up like her, talked like her and discussed the highlights of her life. “It was really fun; I guess that’s why I did it for such a long time. Almost everything I’ve done has been fun. “God has been good to me.”