The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

Meet Your Neighbor

By: Becky Smith, The Quill

Betty Leatherman

Meet your neighbor, Betty Leatherman, who is a short-term resident at the La Harpe-Davier Health Care Center.

She was born in North Carolina but currently lives with her daughter and son-in-law, Kara and Dave Steward, in Burlington, Iowa.

Betty was born in Winston Salem, North Carolina, but her hometown is Franklin, North Carolina where her father worked for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Her father then took a job with the atomic bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Betty graduated from Oak Ridge High School.

Betty's mother taught her to sew at a very early age.

After high school, she was a seamstress and made all of her own clothes as well as for others. She later was employed in the fabric department at the TG&Y department store where they were very pleased with her work.

Betty grew up in a musical family and music was something very important to her dad. When she was six years old, she says "even though we were very poor, my dad went in debt to buy a Wurlitzer piano for $439." She also stated that music lessons were $2 per session.

Her family had their own quartet at home. She says her dad had the most beautiful tenor voice she had ever heard. Her mom sang soprano, Betty sang alto, and her brother sang base. She said her dad bought every Stamps-Baxter Quartet book he could.

And her dad was very particular with his music. Every note had to sound exactly as it was written and the time designated had to be exactly as it was written. She said every night, as soon as they finished their supper, they sang and sang.

Betty was a church pianist at different churches. Her grandfather was a pastor in Franklin, North Carolina and passed the word on how talented Betty was as a pianist. Cliff Barrows, who was a program director for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, learned of her talent and recruited her to play for the Billy Graham tent revivals. Betty states every time there was a revival in Franklin, North Carolina, they requested her to play.

Betty has also written a lot of poetry and songs which she has copyrighted.

Betty was married for 65 years before losing her husband in 2012. They had one daughter, Kara.

Kara met her husband, Dave Steward, while they were both stranded at the Peoria airport. Dave was also in the music industry. He started singing on The Lawrence Welk Show when he was 16. Dave writes, sings, plays bass guitar, and was on the road for 25 years. He has sung and played with his bands in every state, except Hawaii, and all over Canada. He had one song that was #1 on the charts in Bakersfield, California.

He also had several other songs that made the charts and one that was sponsored by the Philco-Ford Corporation and gained world-wide play. Kara says his music is still being played overseas and they sometimes catch his music on Sirius radio.

Kara was a middle school teacher in South Carolina. She retired, in 2016, after teaching in the public schools and writing curriculum for 36 years. After Kara's retirement, Betty, Kara, and Dave relocated to Dave's hometown which happens to be Burlington, Iowa.

Kara said her mom was always very smart and even skipped grades in school. She says, at 88, her mom is still as sharp as a tack!

Betty was a delight to interview and it was a pleasure to write, what probably is, a small portion of her life story. Our appreciation goes out to her and her family for sharing their story.