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Plucky 90-year-old to lead parade

Staff writer

Betty Ireland wasn’t too sure what to think when leaders from Florence asked her to be grand marshal of the town’s 84th annual Labor Day parade.

“Somebody in their wild dreams must have said, ‘Let’s call Betty Ireland,’ ” she said.

That someone was Florence’s utility clerk, Kristi Darnall.

“I said, ‘What? Am I the only one in town that’s old?’ And then I said, ‘What about Dale Miller?’ They say, ‘He’s been grand marshal the last two years.’ I said, ‘Really? I must have been in China or some place.’ ”

Darnall told Ireland she’d give her a week to decide. Ireland called back the next day and agreed. But she still was thinking “what the heck?”

“I wasn’t excited about it at first. I’m getting there,” she said Friday.

That’s Ireland in a nutshell.

At 90, she’s feisty, humorous, and, Darnall said, “sharp as a tack.”

Ireland’s twin daughters, Wava and Wanda, had some questions, though.

“They said, ‘What are you going to have my mother riding in?’ ” Ireland said with an eyeroll.

She thought she just might like to ride in the side car of a motorcycle.

Her daughters gave that a big thumbs down.

“They said, ‘No, that ain’t going to work.’ Well, last year, the marshal rode in a golf cart,” Ireland said.

They didn’t like that idea, either.

She overheard her daughters whispering about the mode of transportation while they were visiting.

“They think I can’t hear, but I heard them,” Ireland said. “It sounded to me like they are getting a convertible for me.”

If that’s true — who’s to say? — the convertible might be red.

“But I don’t know,” Ireland spouted. “I don’t know anything.”

The parade is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 3.

Born in Newton at home (“it’s still standing,” by the way) Ireland moved to Florence in 1956. She and her husband, Walter, lived with his mother for a while. Ireland worked at the Florence Bulletin setting type — “I had to read upside down and backward” — and as city treasurer for 10 years. She worked for 14 years at Carriage Manor.

She always was on the hunt for a house. She found one she liked seven miles down US-77, and she and her husband moved it to its current location.

She shared how much she and her husband paid for the house, moving it and putting in new water and sewer lines.

But then she called back and said it was no one’s business and what did that have to do with being the grand marshal anyway?

She plans to stay in Florence.

“I don’t wanna go anywhere else,” she said.

Last modified Aug. 18, 2022

 

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