CONNEAUT LAKE — Betty (B.J.) Murray can be found doing all types of things at Conneaut Lake — from teaching youngsters how to twirl a baton to raking leaves for a neighbor to planting flowers to helping a friend give hand massages at local home for seniors — all as a volunteer.
"I'm like a dandelion; I go wherever the wind blows me," she said while laughing about her different types of volunteer work.
Many know her as head of the Spinettes, comprised of young girls twirling batons and marching in various parades. She has been teaching twirling for 51 years this summer. She recalls she was in her first parade at the age of 4, carrying a flower with the American Legion in the Conneaut Lake Memorial Day parade.
She's been marching ever since then. As a teenager she won numerous awards at the state and national level for her twirling talents, including Miss Pennsylvania 1973 for the United States Twirling Association. She also placed in the World Association competition.
"It was a wonderful opportunity for me," she said of the experience. She now volunteers to teach others to give them the opportunity.
While going to college, she charged $1 a family for the lessons, noting it helped pay for college. Since then, she offers lessons free of charge.
"I don't like to do paperwork," she said, laughing about why she doesn't charge. "It takes too much time (away from lessons) to collect money. ... Since I'm not sending my dog to college, I don't need to charge."
She prefers instead to teach the youngsters, believing it helps them in more ways than twirling and marching. For example, she takes them to Rolling Fields where they entertain seniors and also has an annual day at Conneaut Lake Park where they — and other twirlers from other states — perform on the Free Act Lawn.
Murray doesn't just give free lessons — she also gives each students "on loan" the baton, sneakers and uniform. Unfortunately, she said many don't return them, but said that's OK too.
When's she's not teaching twirling, she can be seen doing just about anything else around town. She works with the Conneaut Lake PRIDE organization, planting flowers and cleaning up around town. She works with Conneaut Lake Area Business Association, where she often is taking pictures to document what CLABA has done. Although she doesn't attend the Kiwanis Club meetings (they meet the same nights as other events she is involved), she has helped decorate floats for parades and assists Kiwanis with the annual Halloween parade.
She helped with the Conneaut Lake Alumni Association, raising funds for scholarships. She was instrumental in planting flowers — and watering them daily — at Conneaut Lake Park.
She laughed about one summer when it was extremely hot. She recalls watering the flowers in the morning, visiting a friend (who had no nearby relatives) in the hospital every day for about two weeks and then going back to the park in the afternoon to water the flowers again. She was busy.
She also volunteered at the park — helping with the flea market to raise funds for the park.
Murray, who is a dog lover, became involved at the Conneaut Lake Bark Park as a volunteer as well, helping plant flowers there and assisting with other activities. She takes her dog, Teeka, with her, and they both enjoy the activities.
When her parents were still living, she helped the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Sportsmen's Club with funeral dinners and helped set up the rooms for special events.
When a friend needed a helper for "Spa Day" at Rolling Fields, Murray went along to help with events, including massaging the hands of seniors.
She said she looks around and when somebody needs a helping hand, she answers the call. For example, she helps elderly neighbors rake leaves or assists them with other chores as needed.
A retired elementary school teacher, Murray said she feels "compelled" to answer the call for help. She credits the examples set by her parents, the late Tim and Juanita Murray, with that. She noted they were always doing things in the community "helping out," and "It just seems natural for me," she said of her many activities.
She loves doing what she can and where she can, noting as a retiree she has the time to do that and enjoys working with people, carrying on the work her parents did before her.