She knew there was going to be a luncheon in her honor, due to her planned retirement Sept. 1 after 37 years on the job, but Ashe County’s Director of Veterans Services, Betsy Reeves, was totally surprised by what her “boss” in Raleigh really had planned.
The luncheon was planned during a training session in Boone for veterans’ services workers, but Reeves knew something was up when she saw one of her daughters there. She and her husband, Ralph, have two daughters, both married with one living in Nashville and one in Greensboro.
And then she saw Charlie Smith and the jig was up.
“I was told Ashe doesn’t do retirement dinners and that was the reason I chose to present it during the luncheon,” said Charlie Smith, director of the NC Division of Veterans Affairs in Raleigh, about the special award. “The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is the highest award that is given to a civilian by the governor, and is usually given for long public service. Betsy has certainly fulfilled that role with 37 years of service.”
Reeves was nominated for the award by Smith and by Sen. Steve Goss.
“She was very surprised, and she was sad in one way and happy in another about her planned retirement,” Smith said of her reaction to the award. “She said she really hated to leave her many contacts and resources. She is a genuinely dedicated individual.”
Reeves agreed she would miss those she has worked with, saying she felt honored and a bit overwhelmed to be included in the list of those who have been presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, including Billy Graham, Maya Angelou and Michael Jordan.
As for her retirement, Reeves said she and Ralph have new passports and may do some traveling and she hopes to catch up on her reading. Not having to jump up early to get ready for work will be nice, she said, especially when the snow is flying in the wintertime.
It’s a bittersweet adventure; retirement is, for those who have dedicated long years of service to the public. “I have had the best job and the best bunch of people to work with,” Reeves said. Her office is currently serving about 2,700 veterans plus widows.
Reeves began her work for the county in 1968 as elections director, serving until 1972 when she took time off to have her daughters. She came back in 1977 as assistant to Ray Blevins, director of Ashe County veterans’ services. After 12 years, he retired and she took over the director’s job.
There have been a lot of changes, she said, most notably going to computers after years of paperwork. And in the 1970s, veterans were going to school on the GI bill. Today’s veterans are served more through healthcare needs as they age and lose their jobs and health insurance while others become eligible for non service-related pensions and service-related disability. Reeves’ office has been swamped in recent years with healthcare program enrollments.
What the future holds for veterans is uncertain. In these days of terrorism and the potential for biological warfare, the needs of returning service members will no doubt undergo more changes, Reeves said, and she hopes veterans’ services will always be there to assist them.