Betty Wise enjoys sharing her paintings with family and friends, but there is one painting she will never give away. It’s her first, a view of rowboats on a shimmering blue ocean. She copied from a picture in a book and after she had finished, Betty’s art teacher said, “You’re going to be a painter.”
Today, Betty is a 10-year resident of Homeland who is known for her enjoyment of painting and devotion to attending Homeland’s regular art classes.
The native of Tower City, Pennsylvania, grew up with four sisters and one brother. Their dad was a miner who passed on his love of vegetable gardening to Betty. Their mother was a garment worker.
Betty always wanted to be a hairdresser, but for miners’ families, strikes were a fact of life, and money for schooling wasn’t available. To indulge her love for hairdressing, Betty would go into homes up and down the street, charging 25 cents to put up the girls’ hair in pin curls. That evening, she would undo the pins, and “everybody would go to the dance with their hair all done up.”
Even today, Betty loves to have her hair done, saving quarters won from playing bingo for her weekly trip to Homeland’s popular beauty shop.
Betty was a senior in high school when she met her husband, Pat, a native of nearby Gratz, at a Tower City dance hall. In 1940, they came to Harrisburg, where Pat worked driving a cement truck and with the railroad. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy, stationed in the South Pacific.
One day in Harrisburg, an insurance company supervisor knocked on the door and ended up offering Pat a job.
“Oh, Pat, you can’t sell insurance,” Betty remembers saying, but then she laughs. “He turned out to be their top salesman. He could sell anything.”
The couple led an active life in the Harrisburg suburbs, where they raised two daughters. They often hosted neighbors at cookouts. While Pat worked in insurance, Betty enjoyed working as a secretary for state government.
Betty discovered her artistic side when she was in Delaware, where she and Pat would go crabbing and fishing for 15 years after they retired. She met an art teacher who invited Betty to join a class, where Betty produced the boat painting that still hangs on the wall in her Homeland personal care suite.
At Homeland, Betty learned about art classes taught by Harrisburg artist Barbara Passeri-Warfel. “I just liked her the minute I met her,” Betty says. “I stayed with her, and I turned out to be a painter.” Betty enjoys painting flowers and birds. She once traded shopping bags with a somewhat dumbfounded woman in Boscov’s because the other woman’s bag depicted just the kind of big flower that Betty wanted to paint.
Now taught by Taqiyya Muhammad, the classes continue teaching Betty new techniques, such as sketching. Each new work has the potential to hang on her wall or to be given away to anyone who likes it. When she’s not painting, Betty also enjoys reading – another skill passed on to her by her father. Her favorite is bestselling novelist Nora Roberts.
“I can lose myself in reading,” she says.