There is no monument in O'Fallon to Betty Osborne. But there are monuments in O'Fallon thanks to Betty Osborne.
“Betty has been a true asset to O’Fallon for many years. Unlike those that may just present a problem or a need within the community, Betty has always been one to come forth with recommendations on how to improve or do things, and then she doesn’t drop it in someone’s lap, but she goes to work to get it done,” said O'Fallon May Herb Roach.
“I can be persuasive," said Betty, who celebrated her 90th birthday this spring. "I’m great on the telephone, calling everybody and getting help.”
Brian Keller, president of the O’Fallon Historical Society, has worked with Betty on several projects.
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“Whether it be the monument or other projects, it's hard to say no to Betty. You just don't want to. She's that kind of person,” Keller said.
She was born Elizabeth Caroline Pfeiffer on April 12, 1928, in O’Fallon.
When she was 12, her parents moved to a farm near New Baden, and she attended Mascoutah Township High School, where she was a cheerleader. Cheering was an activity that went well with her other love — dancing.
“Being a farm girl, I went to dances," she said. "I was a dancing nut. All the kids from all the towns went to the dances.”
Everybody then could still dance, she said. Her teen years were during World War II, which meant the dances were often short of fellas because Uncle Sam had other plans for them. Always a person of action, Betty showed other girls how to lead. That way, the dances would still be going on when the boys did come home.
“When the men came back on leave, or when they were done (with their service), they’d come back to the dance hall,” Betty said.
While they danced, many GIs would also tell her of their time overseas.
“When the guys came back, I would listen to what they all went through, and heard so many things," she said.
Those stories have stayed with her.
"(They) just stuck in my head, all these years,” she said.
They are what inspired her to become the driving force to create both the O’Fallon Woman’s Club’s Memorial Corner and the O’Fallon Veterans' Monument.
Memorial Corner is located at the intersection S. Lincoln Avenue and First Street in downtown O'Fallon. The Woman’s Club held its first observance there in May of 1968, when Betty was president. Every month since, the club has met there for a ceremony to honor fallen service members from O'Fallon. Ceremonies are now held first Saturday of every month at 9 a.m.
It was in 2002 that she approached then-Mayor Gary Graham about a monument recognizing all veterans. Graham appointed her as the chairperson.
“I didn’t know how to build anything. People kept saying, ‘You’ll do fine,’” she said. “I got a committee together. People believed in it.”
She started going to organizations and meetings and drafting helpers.
“I’d call my friends, and say, ‘I’m going to put you all to work.’ And that’s what we did. We established a non-profit organization. That’s what I mean about all the people helping, coming together,” she said.
The 15-pillar, star-shaped monument located 737 E. Wesley Drive is a continuous tribute to O'Fallon's veterans with names being added twice a year, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Any honorably separated veteran who has ever lived within O'Fallon Township High School District 203 or in O'Fallon Township is eligible for inscription.
“I've worked with Betty on the O'Fallon Veterans' Monument from the beginning," Keller said. "It was through her vision, determination and guidance that it happened. She assembled a fantastic group of volunteers and was very effective at being the glue and motivation that held the project — and all of us — together.”
'A real gem for O’Fallon'
Ever humble, Betty does not seek glory for her work.
“At the O’Fallon-Scott Day, and Memorial Day, we have great people, great attendance. I am at the back. I want to be in the back. I enjoy looking at all the people who are attending the program. The Lord helped me put all this together, so many people are responsible,” she said.
But it is work deserving of praise, said Roach and Kathy Dice, past regent of the Cahokia Mound Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who teamed up to presented Betty with a special award from the DAR for outstanding community service at the June 4 O’Fallon Council meeting.
“She is a real gem for O’Fallon, and we appreciate her very much. She is very deserving of the recognition that she received from the DAR,” Roach said.
Dice said she has known Betty more than 10 years. She served with her in the Woman’s Club, where Betty has been a member for 60 years.
“She has given a lifetime of service to the city of O’Fallon,” Dice said. “I am just very aware of all Betty has done for the our community and it was a pleasure to honor her.”
Betty was recognized last month during the 50th anniversary of the Memorial Corner.
"(She's) an inspiration to all of us in O'Fallon," said Keller. "We're very fortunate to have her.”
'They all came to help'
“It’s very nice people want to honor me,” Betty said, though she is quick to point out she did none of it alone.
“We’ve always had help from the city,” she said, referring to the Memorial Corner. “People donated things, took care of the flower beds. Someone paid the power bill. Everyone just helped.”
Volunteers also helped with every aspect of the Veterans' Memorial, she noted — finding designers, the construction people, getting the names, raising money.
“The talented people of O’Fallon who came together wanted to honor veterans and they all came to help. I just marvel at O’Fallon, how they came through. It’s amazing to see what happens,” Betty said.
'Still enthusiastic about things'
Betty — who has two children, Walter Thomas of Chicago and Beth Reidelberger of O’Fallon; a grandson, Robert Reidelberger; and two great-granddaughters, Analiese and Lauren Reidelberger — said she has no plans of slowing down.
“I’m still enthusiastic about things. I just wear out faster,” she said.
Currently, she resides at The Colonnade senior living complex, which allows her free time to pursue her many endeavors.
“I don’t have to do cooking and cleaning, and I can stay being active with my projects,” she said.
Dice said she has enjoyed working with Betty on multiple enterprises and continues to do so.
“For many years, Betty organized the veterans and secured the convertibles for them to ride in the city parades. She always called me for my convertible. One year, I got to drive the grand marshal,” she said.
Betty also repaired flags for the city, both POW and American.
"Since moving into the Colonnades, this is a job that she has recently turned over to me. We will meet for lunch when she has a new supply of flags to give me. She continues to coordinate with the city on the repairs,” Dice said.
Dice said Betty has asked her to join the Veterans Monument Committee.
“She loves to serve our veterans,” she said.
Betty said living in O’Fallon has been enriching.
“All the people, I’m happy to know. It’s an older, but modern, small town,” she said. “It’s never a dull moment.”
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: The good old Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: All these people who help me with their talent. The people who helped get the O'Fallon Veterans’ Memorial Monument built.
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: Barbara Bush
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: Just what I'm doing.
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: I went to a country school. I worked as a secretary at First National Bank in Mascoutah until I got married.
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: I'll let someone else tell you that.
Q: What irritates you most?
A: When people don't do what they said they were going to do.
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: The good old "big band" sounds.
Q:What do you like most about your job?
A: Everything. I like it all.
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: Same thing I am doing now. With my family, I would do things. I enjoy living at the Colonnades.
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: Shirley MacLaine
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: I'd take my family. I'm family-oriented.