By Stacy Smith

Born in Gadsden, Alabama, Ms. Brookdale University Park 2019, Betty Gilbert, moved to Tuscaloosa as a child.

As a youth living four blocks from the University of Alabama football stadium, she could hear the university’s Million Dollar Band play during half-time. She grew up hearing the roar of the crowd when the Crimson Tide scored. Perhaps it is no wonder that she earned a degree in teaching from the University of Alabama and was a band member.

“Yes, I played in the Million Dollar Band, and marched on that field,” said Gilbert.

For many years, she taught first grade. At the end of each year, often her young pupils would tell her that she was the best teacher that they had ever had.

“I would laugh because I was the first and only teacher that they had ever had!” said Gilbert.

Students would come back and visit her at school. More than once, those teenagers and young adults would tell her that she was not nearly as tall as they remembered her.

She also taught English and writing at the college level at both the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and at Birmingham Southern College.

After 61 years of marriage to Robert (Bob) Gilbert, he passed away and Betty Gilbert was devastated. Living in the Brookdale University Park helped with her loss.

“The kind staff helped me greatly. I enjoy eating in the dining room where I visit with other residents and make new friends. One of my friends here is a gentleman I have known since high school,” said Gilbert, age 89.

She remembers her husband as a kind-hearted, smart military man. They travelled throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States. They spent their honeymoon in Europe.

“I enjoyed experiencing the hospitality of other countries. There are so many pretty places that I have seen. Once, we drove from Alabama to California and back,” said Gilbert.

Gilbert is the parent of three, grandparent of three, and great-grandparent of one. She serves as resident council president, and participates in exercise, music and creative expressions.

She smiled and said, “Of course, I also play bingo.”

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a 10-part series about the finalists for the 2019 Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant. On July 17, we’ll post a story about Ms. Diversicare of Boaz Betty Smith.

Stacy Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA, is a freelance writer based in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Ms. Alabama Nursing Home Pageant is July 29. Click here for more information.