FOR THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
TO THE EDITOR:
Betty Perrin NeSmith was a force of nature. I hate the past tense, but it's the grammar we use when someone dies‚ Im just not sure it's the grammar Betty would use when thinking about death. She is moving on, with things to do. She was looking for a higher plane even while grounded on this earth, and I'm happy to think of her still searching out there in the other worlds. Tarboro friend Jonathan Mlyniec said Betty was trying to make Tarboro a place she might be happy to live in. Maybe she succeeded; maybe she didn't, but, as Jonathan made clear, she succeeded in making it a place he wanted to live in. And many others agree. Now, how to keep it a place to thrive in without her? Use her example of indefatigable belief in the power of positive action in the face of resistance to change? Yes. Why not? I would meet Betty in the coffee shop on various mornings. We'd talk of her various projects for reimagining
Tarboro as a town known for joy, pleasure, tolerance, care‚ all things she believed in passionately‚ and I'd walk away willing to believe it was all possible. Other days, though, we'd talk about the personal costs of imagining change. It's not easy to swim against the current, and at times Betty felt caught in a riptide of resistance. She was never one to believe that‚ you can't fight city hall, but she was also wise enough to know there were often consequences. Still, she'd never let the struggle permanently darken her day, and soon new ideas and a renewed willingness to trust in the better selves of our collective endeavor would return.
The Unusual Shoppe, Second Saturdays, Karaoke Nights that were far more fun than any karaoke night deserved to be, these were all Betty's doing. And they gave Tarboro an undercurrent of uncommon energy and possibility. She was a one-woman cultural ambassador for an open community engagement that excluded no one.
I left Tarboro a year ago, and was unable to participate in Betty's final struggle. I know she was surrounded by great friends and family that understood her unique needs and beliefs. My heart goes out to all her friends and family. The loss to the town of Tarboro is great, but the personal loss is immeasurable, maybe even unknowable until we live through it. And the realm of the unknowable is also Betty's special place. We'll all have to be comfortable living there, with and without her, from now on.
Greensboro , NC