Heavens to Betsey

Some people have a natural way about them, a charisma, which makes you want to get to know them, even before you’re introduced.

Betsey Baio is one of those people.

If you’ve ever been to New York Pizzeria, you probably know Betsey as she and her husband Frank own the New Berlin eatery. But until fairly recently I had never had the privilege of dining there. (I do, after all, live on the other end of the county.) So the first time I met Betsey was not at their well known establishment, but rather at a Commerce Chenango event held at the Canasawacta Country Club.

If memory serves, the occasion was the chamber’s 50th Anniversary Gala, which means I’d been on the job here at The Evening Sun for six months or so.

I’d already found myself a seat and was getting myself (and my camera and notepad) situated, when I saw a stylish woman wending her way through the tables. Her progress was halting, since she took the time to greet almost every gala-goer she encountered in her path. Which gave me plenty of time to admire her fashionable dress, and her oh-so- incredible shoes.

I was too busy coveting her wardrobe to realize that she had paused once more in her circuit of the room, this time at my very elbow. Looking up, I met eyes that gleamed with humor and a smile nothing short of radiant.

And then, as if being in her very presence wasn’t enough, this exuberant angel paid me the utmost compliment: she told me how much she loved reading my columns and blog.

There I was basking in the praise of this glorious creature, almost too flummoxed to thank her for her sentiment. (Yes, I’m that shallow. The way to my heart is through copious amounts of praise.)

It was at that point which I began to worship the ground she walks on. Because even in that brief exchange (I was able to stammer out a ‘thank you’ once I regained my composure), I could recognize that there was something special about Betsey. And not just her great taste in reading material, which was plain obvious. No, it was her spirit that struck me. The kindness she exudes, the style with which she comports herself and how very generous she is with her time, her attention and her heart.

I have gotten to know Betsey much better since that first meeting, and in that time my admiration for her has only grown. After spending the last eight months together as part of the Leadership Chenango Class of 2010, we’ve moved past the point of being mere acquaintances. And I feel privileged to call her friend.

Our class time together, and our conversations, have reinforced all of my initial observations about her. It has also opened my eyes to the depth of her dedication to her community, her family and her faith. Her appreciation of life, and the joy she finds in helping others, is infectious. Her charm, humor, easy wit and outgoing personality draw people to her like bees to honey.

I love all the compliments she pays me about my about my writing, but they do more than feed my needy little ego; they give me insight into another of her charms. You see, she truly has a gift for letting others know how much she appreciates them and the talents which make them unique.

Betsey looks at life in a way that is nothing short of a revelation to a natural born cynic like me. “Every day is a gift,” she told me the day she introduced me to Amy Pole. Those words touched me, particularly in the context of our conversation about Amy’s battle with a brain tumor.

In fact, they touched me so much that I now have them posted above my desk. Every day they remind me to focus on what is truly important, to live life to the fullest and never take life for granted.

Betsey’s outgoing personality is one of the things I admire most about her. She is unabashed about sharing her thoughts, and expressing her opinions and beliefs. But she’s not brash about it. No, she is sensitive to others’ beliefs as well. And can manage to deliver her viewpoint with aplomb. Something I’m still working on, I might add.

Her generosity is also inspiring. I knew of her support of Amy and her efforts to raise money for brain tumor research, as well as other community causes. But I was so touched when she told me that, after reading my column about my friend Danielle Williamson’s intention to participate in an 18-mile overnight fundraising walk in Boston to raise money for suicide awareness and prevention, she had been inspired to donate to the cause. Even though she had never met Danielle or her father, Dan Marshman, in whose memory she is walking.

When I learned Betsey had been chosen to receive Commerce Chenango’s Volunteer of the Year Award, I was thrilled. Even though she feels she doesn’t deserve the recognition, I do. Because I feel it is so important to highlight the good that is happening around us in the community. I hope that others find her continued dedication to making Chenango County a better place inspires others as it has me.

Betsey is the real deal. She is a hard worker, a loving wife and mother, a woman of faith and a wonderful friend. Her heart is made of pure, 24 karat solid gold.

And, she has great taste in shoes!

Congratulations, Betsey, on receiving Commerce Chenango’s Volunteer of the Year Award. No one deserves it more than you.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunmelissa.

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