Digest>Archives> May 2006

Beacon of the Light

Betty Parish - A Beacon of Light on the Outer Banks


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Betty Parrish with the Cape Hatteras lens.

Betty Burge Parrish over the years, handled hundreds of checks for the North Carolina’s Outer Banks Lighthouse Society as Membership Director. However, last year, she got a chance to work on something else for OBLHS besides paperwork. She got the volunteer job of scrubbing rust off brass rings that held pieces of glass together. This is nothing special unless you know that these brass rings are — part of one of the most famous Fresnel lenses in American history. She cleaned the framework for the first order Fresnel lens for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, working alongside other volunteers from the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society.

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Betty Parrish at Prices Creek Lighthouse.

“To be able to work on this lens, knowing the many places it has been and the many people who have handled it is an incredible responsibility and honor,” said Betty of this extraordinary experience. This quote appears on the plaque under the lens display at the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras Village. “The sobering part of this experience,” Betty added, “is the number of prisms that are missing. It will take all of us doing our parts to continue saving history.”

“It is people like Betty Parrish who are the unsung heroes of the volunteer programs at lighthouses all over America. Thousands and thousands of hours have been donated and yet we are but at the beginning of our jobs to restore these wonderful structures to the point where they can be saved for future generations,” said Bruce Roberts, co-founder of the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society.

Among the volunteers present at the lens restoration project were Charlie Votaw, Paula Liebrecht, Lauren Liebrecht, Bett Padgett, Beth Deese, Shirin Pagels and Judy Castleberry.

Betty served as membership director for the Outer Banks Lighthouse Society for eight years. A longtime resident of Charlotte, NC, she is the wife of Bill Parrish and the proud mother of two daughters and two grandsons. She was OBLHS’s first Charter Member in 1995.

Betty is retired from BellSouth with 30 years of service as Marketing Specialist. She continued working as a part-time employee at Bank of America for eight years. After retiring from two careers and raising a family, Betty returned to college and earned her undergraduate degree with honors and thoroughly enjoyed “the journey.” When she is asked what she “is doing” with her degree, she replies that she is listening to second graders read and hoping that her love of reading is contagious.

“Miss Betty,” as she is lovingly called became like family for many OBLHS members. She has attended every society function and OBLHS has long depended on her organizational skills and willingness to work throughout an event until the last chair is put back in its place and the trash is emptied. And she does it all with a smile.

As a valued community member, as well as lighthouses, Betty gives generously of her time to other various causes as a volunteer. She is active in the Avondale Presbyterian Church, serving on two sessional committees, served as a tutor in the church’s After-School Enrichment Program and has participated in home building for COAP — Christian Outreach for Appalachian People, a Habitat for Humanity-like group. North Carolina’s lighthouses are lucky to have her as a friend. She is truly an advocate for the preservation and restoration of all lighthouses, especially the ones on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

Thank you Betty Parrish for your outstanding commitment to volunteerism in the truest sense; the lighthouse community salutes you. We are pleased to honor you with the Lighthouse Digest Beacon of Light Award for making a difference in helping to save our nation’s lighthouses and the history associated with them. You are making a difference. Congratulations, your award is on its way to you!

Editor's Note: If you know of a lighthouse volunteer that should be honored with the Lighthouse Digest Beacon of Light Award, send us their story along with some photographs and we will consider that person for a future award. Send to Editor, Lighthouse Digest, P.O. Box 68, Wells, Maine 04090.

This story appeared in the May 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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