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7:30 AM: Susan Miles is the Director of Champion Athletes of the Ozarks, an organization that caters to handicapped children and adults by offering not only competitive sports opportunities but also vitally important training in life skills.

4:30 PM: Betty Harter has been cooking for the people of Billings for most of her 80 years. The community loves her as much as she loves cooking for them. Mike Smith has her story.

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For KSMU I'm Mike Smith at the VFW Hall in Billings Missouri where a Friday night fish fry is in full swing. VFW Post 5686 is home away from home to a good many heroes in the Billings area. A place where its members get an understanding ear when stories are shared during a game of pool or cards, over food, and yes, drinks too.

Today's Sense of Community Un-sung Hero can certainly be considered a regular at the post, and was nominated by VFW member and Billings resident John Schatz. Schatz says Betty Harter, who's worked at the VFW hall since 1958 when she and her late husband CJ owned what was then CJ's Tavern, can be compared to Albert Schweitzer.

Not only has Betty Harter cooked for the lunch crowd at CJ's/VFW 5 days a week for 50 years, she has for over 60 years prepared and delivered dishes and meals to just about every community event in Billings during that time, and to area individuals, families and groups in need. The now 80 year old Betty Harter has delivered chili and soup to victims and emergency crews following tornados and ice storms. She's cooked for seniors and veterans at Thanksgiving time. Betty has cooked and delivered hundreds of bereavement dinners to families in the area. Betty would travel to Aurora once a month to cook for the Eagles Club. She volunteered for the Catholic Church food pantry, and has fed Burlington Northern Christmas Train crews when they stopped in Billings.

Betty Harter began cooking for others as a child by helping her mother feed Thrasher crews working the fields. She honed her cooking skills at home during family reunions

and when male members of the family would bring home the catch or kill of the day.

Betty began showing up at community bring a dish gatherings and soon developed a fan base for what would become signature specialty dishes that to this day she prepares specific to the many community events or causes she's involved with. This list includes cinnamon rolls and pies for the Billings Bake Sale; cold slaw and hush puppies for the fish fry held 4 time a year; baked beans and potato salad for the pig roasts; cheese cake for the Billings Fair. Betty is the one who always makes the gravy and dressing for the Veterans and seniors at Thanksgiving. Let's not forget that Betty works at the VFW post 5 days a week, a job she says she wants to keep even if "they have to wheel me in with a wheelchair". Betty's daughter Carol Falk says she hopes to be going as strong as her mother when she turns 80. Carol's cousin Virginia Mackey says Betty Harter "has givin' of herself totally as long as I've known her, and that's a long time".

When asked why she does what she does, Betty Harter laughs and says she "likes to see people eat". When pressed just a little to talk about her sense of community, Betty Harter says it's good to have folks come together over the table. "I like to see them get around the table and talk. I don't like all this fighting going on. I like people to get along and love each other. I've always been that way".

For KSMU's Sense of Community series, I'm Mike Smith.


  • Champion Athletes of the Ozarks