Modesty with a Splash of Humor
Betty Jane Gaia was born June 24, 1925 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father, Louis Leo Gaia, worked in the grocery business until the Depression, when they lost everything. He eventually gained employment with the Illinois Central Railroad as a switch-man and got the family back on their feet.
Her mother, Bettye Chambliss Gaia, raised her and her brother, Herbert, until the start of WWII, when she became “Rosie the Riveter” working on airplanes and eventually became a practical nurse.
Betty attended grade school at Immaculate Conception in midtown Memphis, then transferred to Southside High School. She worked for an ice cream parlor her junior and senior year and was active in several sports and clubs, but her real talent was showing up the boys as a member of the Rifle Team. According to Betty, she can still hit her mark!
After high school, she went to the Miller Hawkins Business College to study secretarial administration. She went to work for Campbell Clinic as a doctor’s assistant. One of those doctors, Dr. George Higley, opened his own practice and brought Betty with him. She assisted with everything from taking appointments to helping with X-rays, all of which she enjoyed very much.
During this time, Betty was a member of Boulevard Baptist Church where a young man named James Alvin Moore caught her eye. James, better known as Jimmy, had returned to Memphis after being stationed in Attu Island, Alaska. He was a Navy Sea-bee, building runways for two years – he did not enjoy it and was never one to hide that fact, even years later, Betty chuckles.
While Betty joined her friends at a party, Jimmy was singing in a trio. According to Betty, he wasn’t much of a singer, but he sure was cute. He asked her out and two years later, they were married – February 24, 1950.
The newlyweds moved in with Betty’s parents while Jimmy attended Med School at Memphis State, to save money. He went to work for a doctor who worked out of a duplex on South Lauderdale, and when that doctor decided to give up his practice, Jimmy took over and they moved into the other side of the house to start a family.
When Betty became pregnant with their first child she quit her job to become a homemaker. Their daughter Connie was born in 1953, son Barry in 1956 and then Glenn in 1957. Eventually, Jimmy moved his practice, as well as moving the family to a house on East McKellar. He partnered with Dr. Bill Metzger to start the Family Physicians Group on Winchester Road.
When the kids were grown, Betty decided to get her LPN and attended St. Joseph’s Nursing School in 1970. She worked a couple of years in Coronary Care at St. Joe, where she received her RN and was her class salutatorian. She then decided to go to Memphis State where she studied every “ology” she could get her hands on. She finally finished school in 1975.
While Jimmy’s practice was going strong, Betty volunteered at Methodist South for 14 years and then at Baptist Collierville the last 20. She still goes every Tuesday, stationed at the front desk, where her role is to make you feel comfortable and at ease – a job for which Betty feels she was made to do.
Throughout the years, the Moore’s did their share of traveling, taking ski trips to Winter Park, Colorado and visiting the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Betty and Jimmy were even invited to London, England with the Memphis Cheerleaders, as Jimmy acted as their attending physician. Betty also went to the Smokies every year with the ladies from her church.
Jimmy developed Alzheimer’s and retired at 80 years old. He went to Page Robbins Adult Day Center in Collierville. Betty said it was a wonderful place and speaks very highly of the center. He passed away in 2009, and Betty remained in their house for several years until a bout of vertigo scared her enough to make a change. Her youngest son, Glenn, looked all over the area and in 2016, Betty moved to Kirby Pines.
Betty says she keeps to herself, but is a member of the Kirby Pines Photo Club and is taking Mahjong Classes with Jody Sosh. She is also joined at Kirby by her sister-in-law, Lou Moore, who lives in a Garden Home and her niece, Cheryl, is the Life Enhancement Director. She also plays Scrabble with friends on the computer and says she “holds her own” – even though she didn’t want me to print that – a little inside joke between us.
If you have yet to meet Betty, despite her self-described shyness, she is simply a delight with a wonderful sense of humor and a kindness she tries to hide. So, thank you, Glenn, for helping your Mom join our Kirby Pines family.