Introducing Miss Betty Shannon

| Scene Editor

If Betty Shannon is your cashier during your next visit to Bear’s Den, don’t be surprised if you leave with more than your stir-fry. She may give advice on topics like the job market or housing, offer a big hug, engage you in friendly chatter, ask to take your picture or surprise you with a smile.

Betty, who is better known to the student population and dining faculty by her nickname “Miss Betty,” has worked as a cashier in Bear’s Den for almost ten years. She loves laughing with her co-workers, getting to know students and watching people’s wild antics over the years, especially during the holidays.

“Every year, it was just hilarious. Some of the holidays, [students] would run through dressed as Santa Claus. It was cold out, and you would look out the window and see people walking in their pajamas and their house shoes!” Miss Betty said. She has even seen a female student walk around with her body painted blue, mimicking the X-Men character Mystique for Halloween.

In fact, seeing different students every day is Miss Betty’s favorite part of working at Bear’s Den. “The students, I love the students,” she said. “Every year, you get a different batch.” She has even tried to put together a photo album of some of the students that she has known so that she can have their pictures when they come back after graduation.

“Even if she wasn’t feeling well, she would come into work and take care of all the [students]. I wouldn’t trade her for anybody,” Loretta Smith, a cashier at the Cherry Tree Café, said.

Beyond her extended student family, Miss Betty has one son who lives in St. Louis and a daughter with two children in South Bend, Ind. Originally from South Bend, Betty initially moved to St. Louis with her mother, who had family in the area. At that time, she acquired a seasonal job working with the IRS processing tax returns. After two years, she wanted something more stable, and a friend told her to try finding a job at the University. She’s been working here ever since, giving advice to students and trying to make them feel comfortable in their home away from home.

“I am a mother. I get it, I know how [students] feel. They’re away from home; they’re nervous; they’re scared. You need somebody; you need a mother to take their hand,” Betty said.

Outside of work, Miss Betty loves reading novels—one of her favorite authors is James Patterson—and occasionally enjoys craft-making. She can often be found sitting in a booth with a book in hand, taking advantage of the free time to read that she cannot get at home.

Betty still finds time to take care of her nearby family, and she has even brightened the days of elderly individuals in a senior citizen home where her aunt used to live.

“People don’t think about elderly people like they should. We can learn a lot from the elderly people if you go around, because they’ve been around for years, and if you ever want to learn something in history, you go to them,” Betty said. “I found out how lonely they are, and they would just call me up trying to get me to come and bring my kids around.”

If there is one message that Miss Betty would like to impart to students, it would be to take the time to care about other people more.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, and we need get back to caring about each other instead of just me, me, me,” Betty said. “You never know what’s going to happen to you in your life, so help out if you can.”

So the next time you are in Bear’s Den, take the time to chat with Miss Betty about the world, her dream vacation spot (Hawaii), or whatever is on your mind. More often than not, you will gain a new bit of wisdom and get a warm hug in the process.

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