By the age of 104, most people would have had their fill of birthday presents. But Betty X. Davis isn’t most people.
As her birthday approached in November, Davis sent out a call for presents – but not for herself. Rather, she sought donations of children’s books that she in turn donated to the library at Tom Green Elementary.
Davis visited the school Friday, bringing along wagons full of books and plenty of enthusiasm for the young children.
She queried them about their schooling and what they liked to read. For an encore, she recited the alphabet backwards.
A longtime resident of the Buda area, Davis has for three months been a resident at Sodalis Senior Living and is, according to Community Relations Director Gina Martinez, quite popular. Davis actually turned 104 on Nov. 25, 2019 and expressed her birthday wish was to collect books for a school library.
With the holidays approaching, Martinez said the deadline for donating books was extended – while the initial goal was to deliver 104 books, the total ended up being 250.
“This is the first time I’ve seen this happen and I’ve been here nine years,” Hays CISD Public Information Officer Tim Savoy said.
“We’re incredibly grateful she thought of us – how incredible to be 104 and want to give back with her presents. Her family said she was energized to do it. It energizes her to get out and it energizes the kids to see her … Maybe there will be some opportunity for her to visit another school for more interaction … if there are more opportunities that occur in the future we’re happy to help facilitate them.”
Davis is a lifelong advocate of reading and, in addition to reciting the alphabet backwards, she quizzed the children on various aspects of life, such as where they wanted to live and what they liked to read about.
A native of Ohio, Davis is the mother of eight. She is a graduate of Rollins College and received two masters degrees from Southern Methodist University and became a public school speech therapist in Richardson.
She and her husband retired to Austin in 1981 to be nearer their children and grandchildren.
A prolific writer throughout her long life, she was first published in Spider Magazine in 2012, when she was 96.
The Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators established the Betty X. Davis Young Writers of Merit Award in her honor “to recognize budding writing talents and to spark enthusiasm for writing among young people,” according to the organization’s website.
Davis “has judged many young people’s writing contests and believes these contests help them feel successful at writing, an important lifelong skill,” the website says.
The award was established in 2013 and annually honors three young writers from Austin area elementary, middle and high schools, who are given journals and gift certificates to Book People. The winner at the high school level also receives a $500 scholarship that is payable upon acceptance to a school of higher education or program of their choice.