Just the Facts

Betty Warstler named WHT annual Macon Matriarch

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Theresa Ramsey

With the recent opening of Women’s History Park and the unveiling and dedication of “Sowing the Seeds of the Future” sculpture to the Town of Franklin, the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC) continued its celebration of Women’s History Month by recognizing the 7th Annual Women’s History Trail (WHT) Macon Matriarch.

On March 27, members of the WHT leadership and FHAMC met at the home of Betty Warstler to present her with the annual award, which aptly states, “Certificate of Appreciation in recognition for your lifelong dedication to the people of Macon County through community service. With a heart for missions, a voice for the most vulnerable people in our society, and your many years of willingness to give selflessly to help others, you are the perfect choice for this year’s WHT Macon Matriarch Award.” 

THIS YEAR’S Macon Matriarch, honored during March for Women’s History Month, is Betty Warstler, who was presented with an award certificate on March 27 by members of the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County.

WHT Macon Matriarch is an effort to honor women from the community who have made a lasting, positive difference in Macon County. This annual activity continues to be a celebratory event to honor a Matriarch (elderly woman) living here in Macon County. Past recipients have been Margaret Ramsey, Sally Kesler, Dot Crawford, Roberta Swank, Jessie Cabe, and Sue Waldroop. 

A Lifetime of Serving

Surrounded by family and friends, Warstler shared stories of her time in Franklin, particularly mission-minded projects that were underway in her craft room. At almost 95 years old, Warstler continues to work tirelessly to create items to benefit Franklin First United Methodist Church missions, especially their annual bazaar – in its 35th year! A notebook on a table in her home records her efforts: 4,771 hot mats, 91 grocery bags, 140 blessing banks, hundreds of children’s outfits for children in Honduras, and many more fabric, wood, and stained-glass items. Evidence of her talent, and late husband Harold’s handiwork, can be found throughout her home. 

Whether going on mission trips both abroad and in the United States or using her creative skills to raise funds for projects, Warstler’s life’s work has been focused on helping those in need. She is a member of Franklin First United Methodist Church (FUMC) and has served on many of the church leadership committees throughout the years, particularly the Missions Ministry, until her declining health made it impossible to continue going on mission trips. The Warstlers started stained-glass and woodworking groups at FUMC to encourage and help teach members how to make items that could be sold to benefit church mission projects. 

More than three decades ago, (in 1988), she shared her ideas about raising money for missions to the Laura Jones UMW Circle, of which she was a member. Together, the group worked to organize the first church-wide yard sale, which later morphed into its annual bazaar. This flagship fundraiser, held every July, is sponsored by the entire congregation at  FUMC and has grown by leaps and bounds, raising more than $700,000 to provide funds for local, regional, national, and global mission work. This year’s bazaar will be held at the Macon County Fairgrounds on July 19 and 20.

The Warstlers, as well as their children, Brad, Pam and Kim, moved from Indiana to Franklin in 1965, when Harold was appointed the assistant director of Macon Program for Progress (MPP). He started a self-housing program that was the forerunner of Habitat for Humanity in Macon County and Betty, by working alongside Harold, was involved in this project. In addition, Betty supported Harold in the establishment of the county wide Head Start Program, and she worked with ladies in the community as part of the Homemaker Training Program, which was also started under Harold’s tenure as director of MPP.

Together, the Warstlers helped establish Maco Crafts in 1969, a nonprofit craft co-op aimed to provide a venue for local crafters to earn a sustainable living. Maco Crafts Co-op allowed members to sell their wares, and this membership was under a juried invitation to maintain that high craft standards be reflected. 

In 2012, Betty and Harold wrote [in a local publication]: “One of the many things we appreciate about living in Macon County is that most everyone seems to have a high degree of caring for each other. You can see and feel it when you enter a local business and find a donation jar on the counter for someone who has had an unfortunate experience.”  

This sign hangs in her craft room and is the mantra for how she portrays a life in service to others, “You don’t have to walk on water, it’s about how you walk on land.”

BETTY WARSTLER has been making crafts at her home to sell for church mission efforts for decades.

Warstler’s work of helping those in need has come in many shapes, using her varied talents throughout the years; she deserves this recognition as WHT Macon Matriarch for her important contributions to Macon County.

The Process of Nomination

The WHT Macon Matriarch award focuses on the impact women’s lives have made in this county. Women are nominated for their service in such areas as education, local government, heritage, arts, and business. A selection committee comprised of FHAMC/WHT members evaluate nominations while considering public opinion and stories shared to determine the annual honoree. This year’s selection team was led by Mia Overton and Susan Ervin. 

“We have such treasures in our community … we don’t want to miss an opportunity to honor them,” expressed Anne Hyder, chairman of the FHAMC/WHT board. 

Stories about distinguished WHT Macon Matriarchs may be found at www.womenshistorytrail.org, along with information about the Women’s History Trail self-guided tour. A downloadable brochure and map are available on the site, or a printed version may be picked up at the Macon County Historical Museum and/or the Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce. 

WHT’s goals of education and preservation are mirrored by FHAMC’s purpose: “To provide living history experiences and to preserve the heritage of Macon County for generations to come.” Visit www.folkheritageassociation.org to learn more.