JAY — Betty Houle grew up during World War II, serving as a lookout for air raids during high school and working at the shipyard in Bath after graduating.

“I wanted to go into the service but my mother didn’t think I should,” the 88-year-old said. “She wouldn’t sign for me.”

But even so, she has made it her mission to help those who did serve in the military, volunteering nearly 8,000 hours at Togus Veterans Administration Medical Center in Augusta in the past 35 years. Overall, she has 10,000 volunteer hours helping veterans.

“I wanted to do what I could to help them and do my share,” Houle said. “I like them to know we appreciate what they did.”

As a senior at Farmington High School, she and other students took turns watching for air raids from the top of the Farmington Community Center. At the time, they had lost two or three former classmates who went to serve in the war before graduation, she said.

She graduated on June 11, 1943, and on June 23 that year she was working with her father at Bath Iron Works covering pipes.


She is a founding member of the VFW Post 3335 Ladies Auxiliary, formed in 1957. On Saturday, members of the post and auxiliary in Jay recognized her for her 10,000 hours of volunteer work for veterans.

“I started volunteering basically because I love people. I love being around them,” Houle said. “It gave me a lift, a sense of purpose to help veterans. I was also helping myself and it gave me a purpose for my life and to keep going.”

Houle, who is one of 12 children, has 12 of her own and has outlived two husbands. She has also held a variety of jobs, including working at shoe shops, Western Maine Community Action and a dental association.

Before she broke her leg at Togus three years ago, she did just about everything.

“I did anything patients needed,” she said.

She bought clothes for a patient who didn’t have any to leave Togus and hemmed the pants so they fit. She made and repaired afghans for patients. She helped with beano and made gifts and fruit baskets for prizes.


“You’re there to do whatever makes them happy,” she said. “Sometimes it only takes a minute to walk down the hall just to say ‘hi’ to them. They just blossom. It just lets them know you do think about them. I still do what I’m able to do. I can’t walk and traipse around like I used to do.”

Houle was hospital chairwoman at Togus and is currently deputy chairwoman, she said.

As a rule, she goes there once a week.

“It gives me something to do,” she said. “I thank the good Lord every day. With his help and a good piece of mind, you keep on going. There’s a lot of good living out there and I want my share of it. I am at an age where I can do as I damn please. I have a good life, a very good life. I have a wonderful family. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have survived. We are survivors.”

She’s hoping to reach 10,000 volunteer hours at Togus.

“It goes a little slow when you are only doing five to eight hours a week but we’re working on it.”


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