Betty Turco is soon retiring from The Hub after a long and experience-filled career and life in service of the arts.
I first met Betty Turco while going through volunteer training at The Hub on Canal. While quite friendly, there was no idle chit-chat; we received our volunteer handbooks and went through them quickly, but thoroughly. In the years since, I have passed Betty frequently and it seems she is almost always on a mission. Trying to get a time to sit down and chat with her about herself makes me hum that ‘60’s song, “Elusive Butterfly” to myself. Therefore, I am relying upon the words of others to describe Betty Turco.
Two of the people that responded to my request for “Betty thoughts and stories” knew her prior to The Hub, when she worked at The Museum of Arts and Sciences (MOAS) in Daytona Beach. Joyce Hopkins recalled an art trip to Santa Fe that Betty organized and for which she served as tour guide. “It was a wonderful trip. Her attention to detail kept everything running smoothly so we could see/experience so much, yet have time on our own, too. Her friendliness brought the group together.”
She continued, “When I heard that she was coming to The Hub I thought, ‘How smart of them to hire her.’ I didn’t see a lot of Betty at The Hub because I work Mondays… Her day off. However, sometimes she came in and I reminded her of that. She always replied, ”Just checking on a few things,” and left several hours later. She was always supportive of my needle felting and called to see if I had anything for the Christmas gift gallery. Of course, everyone knows that the success of The Hub depended and still depends on many, many people, but I was right, Betty is definitely one of the spokes on our wheel with her expertise, tireless work, attention to all facets of the gallery, and determination to make us the best, and WE ARE!”
Betty Morris Parker, while participating in Outdoor Art Shows, also knew Betty from MOAS. She remembered the year one of her pieces was awarded the Museum Purchase Award and Betty Turco hung it in her office. “That made me happy that it was not displayed away in an obscure room where nobody would see it.” She stated, “When she became involved with helping to open The Hub, she encouraged me to be an exhibiting artist there although I lived in Daytona Beach. A bad weather weekend destroyed my aging tent, so I decided to retire from outdoor shows and rent a wall at The Hub. Betty, in her exuberance for The Hub, helped me take the next step in continuing with the joyfulness of creating and showing my visual artwork. I hope the same joy goes with Betty to her next venture.”
Two more people, both founders of The Hub on Canal, recounted Betty’s introduction to The Hub. Sally Mackay and Susan Ellis both remembered the day when she walked in, as Sally says, “unknown and unannounced,” looked around and said, “You need me.” Both said that she was absolutely correct. Susan says, “I’ve worked alongside Betty all these years and I can tell you she’s smart, funny and tough. Originally I set up the bookkeeping and sales procedures and together we tweaked those as the years went by. Betty trained all of the volunteers and was extremely knowledgeable when it came to retail sales. I wish Betty only the best as she pursues her new life.”
Sally said, “She had an unwavering air of authority. Never prevaricated. Admits now: ‘If I didn’t know what to do, I made it up.’ Everyone knew: you didn’t mess with Betty. She flatly refused requests that she carry a cell phone, and didn’t waiver for several years. When she left work at the end of the day…trust me, she was gone! I believe that she worked for a London (UK) based travel agency that secured the job of booking flights for The Beatles. And that she knew them well and was invited, together with other people to their house(s) for dinner. She was a dancer in one of her earlier lives/iterations. We couldn’t have done it (The Hub) without her!”
Still others had anecdotes. Grace McNabb recounted, “My best story about Betty would be when Michelle Jachim and I volunteered for the First Saturdays at The Hub and we were responsible for setting up the food for the night. Betty would come into the kitchen and announce that she was with quality control and that her responsibility was to taste the food prior to presenting it to the many visitors. She would tell us that the fruit and cheese passed, but would need to return when the sandwiches were cut and prepared. And that she did! And she would look at us and say, ‘thank you for being here.’ And we all smiled!!!”
Midge Wilson recollected, “I worked with Betty on the photo exhibit, ‘A Moment in Time,’ for a gallery show which featured B/W photographs by my former partner Michael Abramson that were taken in Chicago nightclubs and ballrooms during the 1970s. Betty would always point to this particular photo as her favorite, which made me wonder if Betty secretly coveted this particular hairstyle!”
Kathy Standing, a front desk volunteer at The Hub for several years for First Saturday, had this tale: “One Saturday a very lovely couple bought a piece of art that was expensive and very breakable. Betty passed by as I was wrapping it. She decided it needed to have a box with more bubble wrap. The couple waited patiently while Betty finished. Then, Betty decided she would walk IT to the couple’s car. This was a few blocks. On her way, there was a sudden downpour. Betty walked back soaking wet. This is how our Betty was — very dedicated. But it was also a laughable morning. She will be missed.” Can’t you just see her, with her determined stride, protecting that piece of art?
I chuckled aloud when two of our artists reported the same idiosyncrasy. Lisa Engelbrecht had this to say: “I am a relatively new artist at The Hub, but have thoroughly enjoyed working with Betty. I am a resident artist in the Fine Art Photography Gallery and I’ve been lucky enough to work closely with her. Betty’s sense of humor is a delight in her honest feedback and directness of her opinions is refreshing. I really appreciate it and have learned a great deal from her already. When I found out her age I was SHOCKED because she seemed decades younger than that. She is often looking for her glasses (which are sometimes on her head) and her mask (which is often hanging from her ear). Instead of being annoyed when she realizes it, she laughs and so do we. My life has been enriched by knowing her.”
Another artist, Dave Coleman, agreed, “I have had the good fortune of working with Betty in the Fine Art Photography Gallery at The Hub. One thing about her that makes me chuckle is that she is constantly misplacing her reading glasses. Some of the volunteers know this and whenever any reading glasses are found in or around The Hub, they automatically take them to Betty because they’re probably hers. Betty would be a great subject for ‘The Most Unforgettable Character I Ever Met’ in ‘Reader’s Digest.’”
Others wanted to sing her praises. Anne Higginbotham said, “I was one of 70 artists under the direction of Betty. She made sure we followed all the rules and procedures. If not, we all knew she would certainly snap us into line. But we also knew that she was full of great wisdom and expertise and cared so much for each of us in The Hub. We are grateful for all she did to make The Hub the very special place it is today. We will really miss her!”
Debbie Moser chimed in, “Betty is synonymous with The Hub. Ever since I have been a part of The Hub, Betty has been the tapestry that held The Hub together. On every First Saturday, she would orchestrate all that needed to happen to make the day successful. The Hub has been blessed with so many wonderful people and Betty is a shining star among them.”
Pamela Ramey Tatum had this to say: “Betty was always willing to help Hub artists. She always made time. Even though her job description included 1000 other things, she treated us artists as though we were The Hub’s most valuable asset.”
And Mary Gerlach stated, “All I could add is that Betty was always there… Really present… Always looking around the physical space, evaluating how to make “us” The Hub, look better, look professional as a unique art gallery. And she always looked mighty fine… I mean clothes, accessories and all…”
Obviously, Betty Turco has been a commanding presence at The Hub on Canal since she entered our wonderful facility. As I join the others in wishing her the very best, I’m sure this dynamo with a dynamic personality will not be sitting in a rocking chair, twiddling her thumbs!
****I would like to offer heartfelt thanks to all the people who contributed to this article. I hope I left no one out.