On Jan. 9, after more than a century in church, Norma “Dana” Betts was baptized at Southeast Christian Church’s Blankenbaker Campus by her granddaughter, Tiffany Blandford, just six weeks before her 103rd birthday.
“She’s literally older than sliced bread,” joked Blandford.
It was a day of great joy and celebration for Betts, Blandford and their family.
Betts was born Feb. 27, 1917. In her century-plus of life, she’s spent most of it following Jesus. Betts grew up in church and was baptized by sprinkling when she was 3 months old.
Betts started attending Southeast nearly two years ago, when she moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Louisville to live with her daughter, Nancy Clark.
“I’d been asking her to move down here for 20 years,” Clark said. “She was still driving and living by herself when she finally called me one day and said, ‘It’s time.’”
Clark has been a member of Southeast since 1990, and when Betts finally moved to Louisville, Clark encouraged her mother to come to church with her.
Betts began attending Classic Worship, a Thursday morning traditional worship experience for Southeast’s senior adult community.
“I most enjoy the old hymns,” Betts said.
Betts had been considering becoming a member of Southeast for several months and knew that she needed to be baptized by immersion in order to do so.
When Southeast launched its Chapel in the Woods Campus for senior adults in October, Betts began attending traditional services every Sunday. It was there that she met Chapel in the Woods Campus Pastor Murphy Belding.
Belding talked to Betts about baptism, and Betts knew once again, “It’s time.”
Belding joined Betts and her granddaughter, Blandford, in the baptistry and officiated her baptism.
“This was a very special moment for this whole family, and for our church family,” Belding said. “At the Chapel in the Woods Campus, our mission is to connect senior adults in our community to Jesus and one another. I think Norma’s baptism is an example that as long as you’re breathing, it’s never too late to take that next step in your walk with Jesus.”
When Betts came out of the water, some of her first words were, “I feel like a new person.”
Betts has lived a full life. She has traveled to more than 20 countries and 45 states, many in the last two decades.
“It’s getting trickier to travel, now that she’s over 100,” Betts’s grandson, Blair Blandford, said. “When she presents her ID at the airport, it registers that she’s only 2 years old.”
Betts said that one of the greatest blessings of having a long life is seeing the advancement of modern technology.
When Betts was born, radio broadcasting was in its infancy. Betts’s family owned a laundromat when many families still washed clothes by hand.
About a month after Betts was born, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany and the United States entered World War I.
Betts has lived through more historic milestones than many could count.
When she was 2 years old, women won the right to vote with the passage of the 18th Amendment. When she was 12, the stock market crashed, sending the country into the Great Depression. When she was 25, the world went to war again.
She was married with three children when Alaska and Hawaii became states in 1959.
Betts witnessed the invention of the television, the microwave and the vacuum cleaner. Now, she uses her smartphone to watch YouTube videos.
But in more than a century of life, Betts is most grateful for her walk with Jesus and her church community.
“All my life, I’ve never been without a church,” Betts said. “How wonderful it is to follow Christ.”