Wee Asked Betsy Bethel

WEEasked some simple questions — and your neighbors, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, even some strangers, answered. Get to know them a little bit better with our fun series, “WEEasked.” Look for it a couple of times a month, most likely on Mondays. Do you have someone you’d like to see featured? Send us an email to weelunk@weelunk.com, and please be sure to put WEEasked in the subject line.

I remember the first day I met the plaid-skirted, fresh-faced, smiling Betsy Bethel. It was in the spring of 1996. She had just returned from several months in Scotland (after she had graduated from Miami University and completed a summer fellowship at The Indianapolis Star) and was settling in, back home in the Ohio Valley.

She was young, happy and full of enthusiasm for her new job. The “cub reporter” quickly proved herself and climbed the ranks, taking on bigger challenges and more important assignments. As an editor at the T-L, I was always happy to assign a story to Betsy, knowing it would be done right! She’d always come through with flying colors.


Betsy stayed at The Times Leader for a couple of years before heading to the ’burgh to take a job as a reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. After 14 months, she came back to town to work in the Life Department at The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register. We were both ecstatic about working side by side again.

Just a few months ago, after 23 years in the newspaper industry, Betsy joined Youth Services System Inc. as communications manager and grant writer.

Betsy is a proud St. Clairsville native with roots that go back at least seven generations in western Belmont County. She lives in Martins Ferry with her husband Dave, daughter Emma, cat Lucy and dogs Isabelle and Harley.

She is the pipe major of the Macdonald Pipe Band of Pittsburgh Inc. and often performs solo for local weddings, funerals and memorials. She and her husband own Mmm…Popcorn LLC, a gourmet popcorn shop that Dave operates on Market Plaza in downtown Wheeling.

I have been proud to call her a colleague and a treasured friend for more than two decades. In fact, both my kids and I were part of her and Dave’s wedding almost 20 years ago.

And now, I’m happy to announce that Betsy will be writing an occasional essay on parenthood for Weelunk in the coming months. Wha-hoo!!!

Emma McFarland, Betsy Bethel-McFarland, Amanda and Christian McFarland, and David McFarland.

Here’s what Betsy answered when WEEasked:

What do you think social service organizations bring to our area?

Subscribe to Weelunk

Without social service organizations, the most vulnerable among us fall through the cracks — those who are sick, feeble, orphaned, mentally ill, alone, financially destitute. For centuries, the role of caring for these neighbors often has been taken up by faith congregations and, in more recent history, the government. Both continue to play a huge role, of course, but they also rely on social service organizations to fill in the gaps.

An 18-year-old male or female who has no family support may be couch surfing or staying in a dangerous or abusive relationship in order to have a bed to sleep in. For the purpose of this example, let’s say the young person is female. She may receive food stamps, but only $17 a month. She may have few skills or lack the wherewithal to get a job. This young person can get plugged into Youth Services System’s Transitional Living Program, where she receives housing, clothes and three meals a day. She learns how to budget, shop and cook. She learns how to interview for and land a job, and/or she gets encouragement to continue her education. She now has a healthy support network that wants to see her succeed. She has hope that she can become independent. This is one example of how a social service organization changes lives. The Ohio Valley community is full of such robust and worthy organizations, which is a testament to the people who live and work here. These agencies cannot and would not exist without the support of our community.

What’s the best part of your job?

Knowing that my words may inspire someone to support the life-changing work that occurs with kids every day at YSS.

If you could be the best at anything in the world, what would it be?

At the risk of sounding unambitious, I don’t want to be the best at anything because that implies perfection. Our quirks and flaws make us who we are. I just want to continue working toward becoming the best human I can be.

Betsy and Dave selling Mmm…Popcorn at the Heritage Music BluesFest in 2014.

Where do you take out-of-town visitors?

Topping the short list are Oglebay Park, Centre Market for lunch and shopping, and Heritage Port to admire the Suspension Bridge. For a mid-afternoon snack, Mmm … Popcorn on Market Plaza is a must! (And not just because my husband and I own it!) On Thursday night, the place to be is Tacoholix across the street from the popcorn shop for tasty tacos with unique fillings and live music featuring local talent. I totally sound like a commercial.

Tell us something that would surprise Weelunk readers about you?

I learned to play the Highland bagpipes while attending middle school in Dunedin, Fla.

Betsy playing pipes for the recessional at her stepson’s wedding in November 2017.

What is your wish for Wheeling?

I want our children to grow up physically and emotionally healthy in a safe, prosperous, culturally rich and drug-free community.