Connector to Newcomers, Psychologist,
Friend to Orangutans
If you moved into GHBC in the last few years, Betty Reinecke is likely one of the first people you met. Betty called you to set up an appointment, visited you in your apartment to interview you, and stayed to answer your questions, take your picture for the resident directory, and give you essential contacts.
She then wrote your brief biography for publication in West Winds and on the resident website for everyone to see. Your bio and photo let your new neighbors put a name to your face, learn something about your background, find that you have a hometown in common, or discover you both like to dig in the garden. Betty has the special knack of then keeping in touch, which seems to be her forte.
Betty is quick to give credit for the idea of introducing newcomers through short bios in West Winds and on the website to fellow resident Edith Bennett, who maneuvered the idea through the Resident Council. Betty has been writing the vignettes from the beginning in 2016 and declares it to be “the best job at GHBC.”
Betty moved to Goodwin House in October 2015. She knew from her volunteer work with Meals on Wheels and her expertise as a psychologist that people can easily become socially isolated and find it difficult to make friends after retirement, and that was not for her. She found GHBC to be a good location with proximity to Washington D.C. and activities in the region. Before moving in she attended lectures here that she found intellectually stimulating. She now enjoys the company of new friends and takes advantage of the many offerings, from lectures to the Fitness Center.
The GHBC Marketing Committee is a natural fit for Betty. Her apartment is often open for prospective residents to tour during major Marketing Dept. events. She is also an ambassador for the committee, giving prospects individual tours. She loves the personal attention she can give and often shows her own apartment.
Betty has been a big supporter of the resident website since she moved here; in addition to her new resident bios and photos, she spends a piece of her volunteer time editing and proofing the site. And every Thursday morning finds her in the WhatNot Shop receiving and pricing donations for the Christmas Bazaar.
Both the former and current directors of GHBC’s Clinical Pastoral Education Program, Dan Duggan and Liz Pomerleau, have taken advantage of Betty’s knowledge of statistics from her professional life and apply it to their professional quality improvement efforts. The Clinical Pastoral Education Program is an accredited program offering theological training for students of all faith traditions in a clinical setting.
Technology improvement is a part of the new Strategic Plan for all of Goodwin House, and Betty is hoping to help integrate technology now and is watching for new innovations that could improve the lives of all residents in the future. Her long experience working with children and adults with disabilities gives her a keen awareness of problems older adults may experience with their physical surroundings, and she advocates for changes in technology to assist them.
Betty’s true love outside of Goodwin House is her volunteer job at the Smithsonian National Zoo working as an interpreter and docent with the great apes. Immediately after retiring, she found a researcher doing work with orangutans, and she was hooked. Betty is at the Zoo all year long helping visitors get to know the baby gorilla Moke, her fuzzy friend Redd the three-year-old orangutan and their families.
Redd the baby orangutan at National Zoo
Mary Elizabeth Reinecke was born in Bronxville, N.Y., the second of five children, and moved almost immediately to the Chevy Chase area of D.C. Betty tells the story of taking the city bus by herself at the ripe age of five, a measure of her independence still today.
Betty at age five on her first
day of school
Betty (holding baby) with her siblings
Betty’s dad, a trade association executive, moved the family to Glencoe, Ill., a Chicago suburb, when she was 11. The family was looking for a good job, a bigger house and better schools, all of which they found. The house had been built by parishioners in 1894 as a manse for a nearby church and had many unique touches.
The yellow Victorian Reinecke family home in Glencoe, Ill.
Betty’s mother was a high school reading teacher who became a guidance counselor in later years. Both parents were fanatic grammarians, which probably accounts for Betty being a self-described “grammar nut.”
New Trier High School was rated the number one high school in the country when Betty was there, and she found high school to be the most challenging of all her school years, including university. “It was wonderful and huge with 4,000 kids,” she remembers.
She received a BA in psychology with a minor in sociology and English at DePauw University, followed by a masters degree in child development from the University of Minnesota. With her degrees in hand, Betty moved to Washington to take a job with the National Institute of Mental Health and, after two years, found her real calling at the St. John’s Child Development Center, where she loved learning to work with disabled kids.
The idea of psychologists in schools was new, but Prince George’s County was in the forefront, and Betty was there. (Now, school psychologists are mandated by law.) Betty worked in elementary and middle schools and with special centers for severely disabled children from preschool to age 21. At the same time, she earned a PhD in child psychology from the University of Maryland.
Although schools were desegregated in Maryland, they were segregated by neighborhoods, so one of Betty’s jobs during the beginning of court-ordered desegregation, in addition to her usual duties, was to ride the school buses to ensure children’s safety.
While she was working in Maryland, she and a colleague started a newsletter for the fledgling National Association for School Psychologists. Betty is proud that the newsletter is still going strong and the Association is now huge, as all schools have psychologists.
After eight years in the Prince George’s system, Betty moved to Fairfax County, where she concentrated her efforts in fewer schools: an elementary school, a middle school and a center for physically disabled children. The career move was a great success; Betty was with Fairfax County for 25 years to the day. At the end of her career she was supervising 35 school psychologists and still had a school herself – a bit “like herding cats,” she says. Her focus in those years was working with new psychologists, helping them deal with particularly difficult situations, and she witnessed the profession grow and blossom.
Her mission was always to care for and nurture disabled children. When a charitable organization offered a free day trip to Disney World to a special center where she worked, she accompanied a planeload of physically disabled youngsters, including one child with no arms or legs and who really, really wanted to go to Space Mountain. He did.
In her spare time, Betty loves to read on her Kindle, and she has always loved to travel with friends. Her favorite trip was to the Galapagos Islands and to an eco-lodge deep in the Amazon rainforest. As a child, she and her siblings loved to visit the National Zoo, especially when Smokey Bear lived there. Perhaps this is the reason why she finds bear statues on many of her travels.
|Betty with a bear in Alaska
||Betty with Smokey Bear at National Zoo in D.C.
Betty loves to knit, mostly socks.
And she loved to cross-stitch after the stress of work, which she says “is why I have an excessive number” of beautifully framed pieces gracing the walls of her apartment.
Betty's cross-stitching graces her apartment at GHBC.
Betty Reinecke reaches out and collects friends, newcomers and long-timers alike, at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads. It is her special gift.
By Anne Stewart