Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Yes, there will be a chicken bbq on Newfield Day

In that land of yesteryear of the 1950's, the Newfield Fire Company, being all volunteer with no support from local tax dollars,  needed to raise money for equipment.  A new idea was being tried out - this is before Perdue and other corporations became a huge poultry industry - and that was to grill chicken halves over a open pit of charcoal on a hot summer Sunday.  Local farmers would donate or sell at cost to the Fire Company fresh ears of corn, ripe tomatoes and rolls.   The Fire Company's Women's Auxiliary would help out by holding a bake sale and Kiwanis would arrange for games like coin tosses and pony rides.

Other local fire companies were doing the same thing and families loved it.  The food was good and the price was reasonable.  The firemen joked over the fire pits as they learned what to spray on the chicken halves to season them and keep them moist (mixture of water, cider vinegar, salt, and pepper) and how often to turn the improvised-out-of-chicken-wire baskets to cook the chicken evenly without burning it.  It was truly a sweltering job but the camaderie and teamwork were rewarding.  Their faces would be black and greasy with smoke smeared with sweat, my father's among them.

The bbqs were a success -- money was raised, families had fun, the town met as a community.  Over the years the bbqs got bigger as a parade was added along with more community activities.  Now the one idea has become Newfield Day.   The Public Library sells peach related desserts; the Business Alliance holds a Chinese Auction; the local dance studio has a recital; local marching bands participate.  It's summertime Americana at its best.  Any midwesterner would feel at home even though this is New Jersey.

The Fire Company debated whether to pull out from Newfield Day this year as they feel so beleaguered by the actions and ordinances of the Town Council.  The vote was last night; I held my breath.  I just couldn't imagine no chicken bbq again (last year's was cancelled due to damage from derecho).  The company chose family, kids, and community.  I am relieved and proud.  They took the high road.  Well done.

My son wrote and delivered a funny and touching eulogy for my Mom

The day went smoothly.  Downpours were threatened from mid-morning onward but held off until late evening.  It seemed my cousin would not make it in time to read the 23rd psalm but she did.  The computer with the slideshow of old photos did not fall over or hit any electrical glitches.  No one fainted from the heat but a chair did fall over.  Everyone of the more than 200 people who needed a seat found one - the firemen stood in the back in case they needed to answer a call and the fire truck was stationed outside too, just in case.  The flower arrangements were gorgeous and looked like my mother had been whispering in the ear of the florist as to what exact blooms to choose.  My grand nephew did not trip on the easel holding the large photo of my mom as he walked by it to light the candles on the altar table with an open flame at the end of long brass candle snuffer/lighter.  We had plenty of micro cupcakes (I do not exaggerate when I call them that) and cookies and punch and cups and napkins.  Songs my mother sang at Malaga Camp Meeting soared through the sanctuary.   The attendees were smiling with touches of sadness as they spoke the traditional "I am sorry for your loss" as they reflected on the loss for themselves, the church, the public library or Newfield itself.  It was good to hear the gasps and laughter as my son spoke these words.  All in all it was the perfect tribute to my mother.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mom - Betty Jane Davis, 85, Elementary School Librarian

Betty Jane Davis was born in Port Norris, NJ to Verna and Archie C. Shull in 1927.   She lived in Newfield with her beloved husband of 63 years, Richard F.Davis, who predeceased her in 2009.   Betty Jane is survived by a sister - Mary Ann Knudsen, 2 daughters - Maggie Davis and Arlene Schulgen, 6 grandchildren - Richard E. Moncrief, Brent Simmons,Melissa Hayman, Richard T Neeley, Jake Moncrief and Sarah Knopf, and many nephews, nieces, and great grandchildren.  She has taken into her heart many other sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons who will miss her loving attention.

Growing up in the Great Depression provided her with many stories of moving and living in Bridgeton where she went to elementary school and part of high school and then onto Malaga Camp.  She graduated from Vineland High School in 1945 and remained friends with high school buddies from both schools throughout her life.

She met the love of her life, Dick Davis, at a birthday party July 12, 1943.  He was tall and handsome and she was "almost" 5 foot 2 with eyes of blue.  Neither had eyes for any other from that day on and they were married in May of 1946.

Settling into a house on Church Street in Newfield in 1950 with her husband and 2 daughters, Betty Jane supported many town organizations and endeavors including the United Methodist Church, Edgarton Memorial School PTA,  Newfield Swim Club, Rose Hill Cemetery, and the Newfield Library.   Although an "adopted daughter" of Newfield, Betty Jane and Dick were a team working to keep Newfield a great small town to live in.

With one of their daughters in high school and the other almost there, Betty Jane, her husband and daughters moved into the large house behind the squab farm and there, along with Betty and Bruce Candler, ran a restaurant and catering business called White Dove Farm. 

When her daughters were grown and had children of their own, Betty Jane fulfilled a life-long dream by attending Glassboro State College to earn a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in library education.  While she was getting these college degrees, Betty was establishing a vibrant elementary school library at Rosenhayn, adding computer literacy classes in the late '70's.  It's not unusual for one of her daughters to encounter a former Rosenhayn student who attributes part of their success to Mrs Davis's encouragement of them.

Retirement from the school library in Rosenhayn brought a move to a smaller house, travel, and a stronger devotion to the Newfield Public Library.  Along with Hazel Moore, she was a driving force in getting a new library built in the Newfield Grove as well as forming a partnership with the Gloucester County Library System.  Prior to this, the library was open for several hours one night a week and now it is a true resource for the town of Newfield, open 6 days a week with special activities for children and free-to-use computer resources.  Betty Jane remained an active member of the Library Board until June of this year, when she and Hazel Moore were honored for all their endeavors over the years.

A memorial service will be held at 2pm on Sunday July 28th in  the Newfield United Methodist Church, Columbia And Elmo Ave, Newfield, NJ 08344.  Internment will be private.
In lieu of flowers, her family asks donations in her memory be sent to the Newfield United Methodist Church or the Newfield Public Library.