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Betsy’s Life Through a Lens

Posted: March 21, 2014, 8:50 a.m.
by Chaslee Marshall, Guest Contributor.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words, then Betsy Plank could have written an entire book series. When I was asked to take on the task of digitizing each one of her photos, I had no idea what that would truly mean. But by the time I finished scanning a fraction of her photos, I felt like I had met and gotten to know her.

It’s safe to say that Betsy did not live a dull life. She accomplished much in the world of public relations and was majorly involved philanthropically, living a full life outside of work. Although she had many unique qualities, one of her special characteristics was her love of taking photos. She constantly had a camera with her to document events, meetings and trips.

The first binder I digitized contained a chronology of Betsy’s life starting with photos of her as a baby. As soon as I opened the binder, I immediately felt honored to take a peek at Betsy’s life before she was THE Betsy Plank.

Baby- Betsy Plank

Although Betsy was only 4 feet 11 inches tall, she had a big personality. I was instantly able to pick up on her vivacious personality in the photos that captured her in her childhood. In fact, written on the back of one of her photos was a message from one of her elders that said, “You were the smartest baby I ever knew.” The cheerful, wide-eyed smile said it all.

UA Graduation- Betsy PlankUA Graduation- Betsy PlankAs I continued through the album, I saw photos of Betsy in a cap and gown at her college graduation. The young woman with the bob haircut had turned into a professional. My favorite shot of Betsy depicts her sitting on the floor around her typewriter in a pair of blue jeans with papers strewn across the floor and an ashtray and lit cigarette handy. To me, the black-and-white photo really gives a stripped-down image of her in her element. The look of determination on her face showed that nothing could hold her back.

UA Graduation- Betsy PlankBetsy and her famous typewriterBetsy and her famous typewriter

Betsy Board 1Betsy Board 1A few pages further into the binder, the story continued as her husband Sherman entered the pictures. It was obvious that the couple loved to have fun. There were several pictures of them at parties, dressed in their best formal wear, laughing and dancing. The woman clearly loved to have a good time, sometimes coupled with a martini.

Betsy with husband Sherman celebrating July 4th

Toward the back of the binder, the photos turned into colored Kodak images that she had obviously taken herself. There was always a reason to take a picture, no matter what the occasion. If they were vacationing on their boat, there were a series of photos to tell the tale. Any holiday celebration always warranted photos. And I cannot forget the photos of her cats. She loved her cats.


Perhaps my favorite series of photos were those that she took on a trip to China. These particular pictures included typewritten captions that Betsy wrote herself. Not only did I have the photo to tell the tale, but I also had her perspective to see them through. My favorite photo and caption was one of her wearing a hat at the Great Wall. “Great Wall just to prove Betsy was there. (That woman with the funny hats is everywhere),” she said. Betsy had a great sense of humor.


When I was first assigned this project, I knew that it would be interesting. But I never figured that I would have as much fun as I did. Betsy Plank was a great professional in public relations, with a whole lot of personality. Getting to see this other side of such an amazing woman was incredibly inspiring. Her photos have helped motivate me to not only achieve without perceived limits but to also take a few pictures along the way.

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