Betsy Hedeman couldn’t help but laugh.
Here she was, at age 93, seated in the Relay Elementary front office. In the halls, young students, most wearing pajamas, slowly filed into the school’s gymnasium.
The students wore sleepwear as part of a school spirit activity on the final day before winter break. Hedeman was wearing a beautiful and elegant blue dress and certainly not pajamas. But make no mistake: Hedeman was there and showing her Relay Elementary school spirit in an equally powerful way.
Betsy was at Relay, located in Halethorpe, to present a substantial financial contribution to the school where her late husband Bill attended nearly a century ago. And this was the perfect time of year to do it.
William Heller Hedeman was born on Dec. 25, 1920. He was a Christmas baby, and he attended Relay Elementary, long before the school moved to its current building. Bill attended school at the second of three Relay Elementary buildings in the school’s history. He attended Catonsville High during the depression, milking two cows and feeding sheep and chickens before school in order to help make ends meet.
Bill did not come from a wealthy family and had to work hard for everything he had. He became purchasing manager for the entire Bendix Radio Division. As president of the National Association of Purchasing Managers, he visited 43 countries and all 50 states. Betsy joined him for the majority of those trips. She was by his side for more than a half century. They were married for 57 years before he died in 2008.
Nearly a decade later, Betsy still loves talking about him. And she is doing all she can to ensure he is remembered in the Relay community. First came a significant donation to the Relay Town Hall. Next up? Relay Elementary.
“Well, I look back at all the huge success my husband had,” she said, “and it had to come from somewhere, you know? Don’t you think his teachers here sparked that?”
Betsy complains that her eyesight isn’t what it was. And she apologizes in advance for not moving as quickly as she once did. But she is still full of energy. Now living in Lutherville, Betsy enjoys self-deprecating jokes and telling stories.
She desperately wants Bill’s legacy to be remembered, which is why she is donating more than just a financial contribution to Relay.
During her Relay visit, she presented principal Lisa Dingle a black-and-white Relay Elementary class photo from 1927. Bill is standing in the front row. Betsy points to him and her eyes brighten.
“Isn’t he so cute,” he said. “He’s wearing a suit his mother made for him.”’
Relay Elementary recognized Betsy and Bill during its annual Polar Express assembly. She was joined by Deborah S. Phelps, the director of the Education Foundation for Baltimore County Public Schools, former Board of Education of Baltimore County member Michael Bowler and retired BCPS Art Department Supervisor Farrell Maddox.
Betsy clutched a framed black-and-white photo of her husband during her visit.
Betsy is a wonderful person,” Dingle said. “ I have enjoyed spending time with her over the last year and a half and getting to know about her husband through her stories. She always speaks about the quality education Mr. Hedeman received at Relay and the importance of hard work. We appreciate her incredible generosity to this school and the community.”
While Phelps and Maddox enthusiastically read “The Polar Express” to students seated around a holiday tree and model train, Betsy listened, watched and smiled.
When she exited, the students cheered for her and she waved to the Relay Elementary students. During the ride home, she raved about the children and how they touched her heart. She said the visit to Relay was the best Christmas gift she could have ever received. It was a wonderful day for everyone involved.
Interested in giving back to a school or supporting public education like Hedeman? Contact Director Deborah S. Phelps (email@example.com) of the Education Foundation of Baltimore County.