A magazine published by the Liberty County (Georgia) Chamber of Commerce recently carried a story, “Standing the Test of Time,” featuring the love of Bill and Betty Grugin. They were married just short of 60 years.
The interesting part of the story for people in this area is that Betty was the first society editor of the Kentucky New Era. She was the daughter of Loise and Gretchen Hale. She was a graduate of Hopkinsville High School and the old Bethel College, where she first got an interest in art.
One day, on an assignment for the New Era, she was sent to Fort Campbell, where she first met a blond, blue-eyed West Pointer, who had just been sent to the Army post.
The story in the Liberty County magazine pointed out that the officer, Bill Grugin, immediately noticed Betty. He said, “She had on an orange dress, with one of those overlay things you ladies like.”
Bill asked if he could take Betty home. She said, “No. I have my own brand-new car, thank you.”
He asked friends for advice, and he pursued Betty with phone calls and letters.
Among her family, Betty had a brother, who is now deceased, and a sister, Cordonna, who is still living. She is known now as Cordonna Rust.
Cordonna, who was only 13 at the time, told me how roses and sometimes candy would appear on her family’s porch.
Bill finally got a date with Betty. Sometime later they were at a football game at Kentucky, and on a whim, he said, “Let’s get married.” She had a full military wedding at the old Ninth Street Christian Church.
They left for a short honeymoon in teepee before he was deployed the following week to Korea, leaving Betty to stay home with his family.
I have an idea that the teepees were part of an attraction that catered to tourists before the interstates passed them by in central Kentucky.
Betty never lived in Hopkinsville from that time on. Later, she was sole owner of the Happy Palette in Sunbury, Georgia, and co-owner of the Loaded Brush Studio & Gallery in City Market at Savannah, Georgia.
The couple took more than 30 cruises during their marriage. They were always on the go meeting new people, making friends and living life to the fullest.
She traveled around the world with her husband and didn’t really begin painting until the 1970s. She was inspired by the natural beauty of the waterways, marshes and woods of the Georgia countryside.
She became an internationally known watercolor artist. She had more than 30 one-woman shows, including one aboard the Cunard Countess cruise ship.
“Her paintings hang in numerous private and corporate collections and several have been selected for private museum collections,” the magazine story notes.
Their love has continued, although Betty passed away in 2011. They had two girls, Kimberly and Robin. Kimberly has also passed away.
Bill and Betty’s home in Sunbury is exactly as it was when she was living. And the story describes how a person can still see the joy in Bill’s face when he speaks of “his Betty.”
He retired from the Army as a colonel in 1981. His last military assignment was to Headquarters of the 24th Division.
Betty’s art still fills the home, and Bill sees to it that there are always fresh flowers in the house. If there is nothing seasonal in their garden, he goes out and buys them.
There is a Gandhi quote in the story, “Where there is love, there is life.” The true love of this couple remains.
As local historian William Turner often says, every story has a Hopkinsville connection.
Mary D. Ferguson is a New Era columnist. The paper’s opinion editor, Jennifer P. Brown, transcribed this column for her.