Betty Adams works on her knitting at the Keillor House Museum in Dorchester recently. A long-time volunteer at the Keillor House Museum and St. James Textile Museum was honoured this summer for her many contributions to the community. LEBLANC PHOTO
DORCHESTER, NB - The Village of Dorchester has honoured one of its long-time citizens for her many years of contributions to the community.
Elizabeth Adams was honoured during the annual Sandpiper Festival held this summer particularly for her work with the Westmorland Historical Society. Adams, known to many near and far as ‘Betty’, has spent many of the hours of her long life as a volunteer.
She said last week in Dorchester that she was surprised, but pleased, to be honoured by the village.
“I like doing it…and I guess they’re happy with what I do,” Adams said.
Born the oldest of five children in Frenchport, PEI, a small village near Charlottetown, in 1925, Adams went on to marry her husband Fulton James Adams and the pair subsequently moved to Dorchester when he was hired as a chef at the Dorchester Penitentiary. The Adams’ had three children – Helen, Heather and Donald - all three of whom currently live in western Canada. Fulton Adams passed away at the age of 50, in 1968 and since that time Betty Adams has continued to live in Dorchester.
A ‘stitcher’ from her early years, Adams continued to perfect her knowledge and skill with needles, yarn and textiles over the years.
“We were learning to sew when we were about three years old…my mother was a school teacher but she became a housewife when she married my father…we lived on a farm. My favourite thing (needlework) to do when I was young was making pillowcases that were straight. My ancestors way back in England, before my family came over here, were tailors,” she said.
Throughout the years Adams has continued to sew, knit, stitch quilts, weave and spin; making most of her children’s clothes and continually turning out handmade quilts. She first got involved with the many initiatives and events leading up to and following the opening of the Keillor House Museum, beginning in 1965.
“Sylvia Yeoman (former Dorchester resident, heritage activist and co-founder of the Keillor House Museum) asked me to make a jacket for Mr. Keillor (a person played the role of John Keillor during the opening ceremonies of the new Keillor House) and she got a big surprise when I finished it because I made it very well…then I made a dress for her that she wore to Scotland. I made French seams…I never thought they were a pain in the butt to make, it was just worthwhile to do it, especially with fine fabrics,” she explained.
Adams added the Keillor House activities to her long list of volunteer activities.
“Fulton used to complain sometimes because I was gone a lot in the evenings at PTA and other meetings; I was involved in a lot of things to do with my children. After he passed away I got involved in other things as well,” she said.
For many years Adams worked alongside Yeoman, many times being behind the wheel while the two travelled to far reaches of New Brunswick and other points in the Maritimes while promoting heritage events and activities.
But Adams is modest about her involvement with the local historical society’s activities, admitting however that when the organization first undertook plans for the St. James Textile Museum, she joined in because she was interested in the various yarn and textile mediums on which the facility now focuses. Over the years Adams has also made many quilts for the Keillor House and helped with many other needlework and sewing projects.
“I’ve had the time to work on these projects and I enjoy doing it. I like to spin and weave and quilt so I do spend a lot of time there when the museum is open. I like to give tours there too,” she said.
Indeed, from each June through September Adams spends about 30 hours each week at the St. James Textile Museum. During the colder months of the year Adams spends time with her children and has also contributed her time and talents to volunteer organizations in other provinces.
“I spent a lot of time working with the Anglican Church in BC. I helped with the embroidery of wall hanging and other such things,” Adams recalled.
Her contributions have been appreciated both near and far over the years. A former president of the Westmorland Historical Society, Alice Folkins said last week that Adams played a big role in helping to establish the Keillor House Museum.
“Betty spent a lot of time driving Sylvia to various places, because Sylvia didn’t drive. Betty was always there working in the background and she has been for more than 40 years,” Folkins said.
She said Adams believes in walking a mile in another person’s shoes before judging them.
“And that belief has earned her the respect of many people, and rightfully so. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in her company and I’ve learned a lot from her in that time. Betty is a ‘people person’, people like to be around her and it shows,” she said.
For Adams, volunteering is just a way of life, and one which she expects to keep doing as long as she’s able. The award given to her by the village joins the many other honours she’s earned throughout the years.