VIP Erma Bateman Beeson: ‘It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us’

Giving Back to the Community

Sometimes when we meet someone, we know immediately that we going to like that person. Erma Bateman Beeson’s genuinely warm welcome when I first stepped foot into the McKinney Chamber of Commerce was one of meaning. I instantly thought, “who wouldn’t love being in McKinney if everyone here is as nice and helpful as she.”

Erma may have a bad day but if she does, no one will ever know it. If pleasant and thoughtful could be bottled and sold, she would have the corner on the market. Her story is of a lifetime of giving back to the community. Her history of stability and sustainability has given her the courage to always do more than would be expected.
Erma grew up in the small community of Fredonia, Kansas, with a population of about 3,000. Her father was the school principal and her mother, a teacher. Education was a priority. She worked for the newspaper while she was in high school and she went on to Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, where she also worked for the newspaper. There she met her husband Barry who was editor of the college paper. After they both graduated, she taught school for years in whatever community or state Barry’s career took them.

Erma and Barry did once take on a giant entrepreneurial venture. Barry’s love of flying gave the insight into a wonderful notion and they opened a flight school and charter flight company in the mid-1960s near their Kansas roots. They were very successful but when a devastating tornado wiped out their aircraft inventory and business, they looked at all their options. Most of Barry’s career was with Sears, and he quickly moved up the ranks and finally landed in Chicago at the company’s headquarters. He was one of the five people responsible for writing the program that made the Sears credit card possible in the 1960s.

In the 1980s, Erma gave up teaching children and switched her guidance instruction to adults. She worked for a New York-based marketing company and eventually wound up writing the training manuals for the salespeople for large companies such as IBM and Sears. It was during that time, Erma moved to Dallas for the second time in her life while Barry was still in Chicago. In all their moving with Sears, Dallas was first home to them in 1967.

When it was time to settle down, both Erma and Barry wanted to find a smaller town – one like they had known when they were children. In 1994, Erma went to work for the McKinney Chamber of Commerce. She sold advertising for what was then the chamber’s publication, McKinney Living. In those days, if you did one thing while working for the chamber, you did everything. She also worked part-time promoting tourism for McKinney and as the city grew, she later was given the full-time job of promoting tourism.
Erma has a passion for the arts, history and education. She has her finger on the pulse of all of them. She has been on the Collin County Historical Commission for many years and served on the board of the Texas Lakes Trail, a regional tourism initiative, which promotes heritage tourism. She is as saddened as I am that there is no longer financial support for the McKinney-based Collin County History Museum. We are both hoping that support will come in some form.

Today, Barry is retired and Erma works part-time at the city’s Senior Center.
What a blessing she must be for the center. I am sure she knows everyone and greets them as warmly as I remember her first greeting me when I walked into the chamber. It is so good to know that I am not the only one who truly appreciates her.

When we walked into Rick’s [Chophouse on the Historic Downtown McKinney Square] for lunch the other day, you would have thought a celebrity walked in – everyone in town knows her, and you could witness by the greetings that she is loved and appreciated.
Erma puts it best, “It takes each of us to make a difference for all of us.”

Gerry Batte Russell of McKinney writes about people who enjoy giving back
to the community. Gerry (pictured at right) is an Independent Distributor of LifeVantage products ( and is recently retired from a life-long career in real estate. She has held a Texas Real Estate Broker’s license since the early 1970s. She was quite active with the Collin County Association of REALTORS® and served as its president in 2006.

Please share this story with your friends. Her story is also featured as a Collin County Headlines VIP.

Cairo known for helping others

By Gerry Batte Russell
Giving back to the community

McKinney got lucky when the Cairo family moved here several years ago. The family exemplifies everything that McKinney offers – a sense of family/community. The Cairos were immediately drawn to the beauty and “uniqueness” of the community and they weren’t shy about jumping in and becoming a big part of it.

The Cairo family includes daughters and their families and it is truly a Catholic Italian family. Jim’s father’s family lived in Italy and his father was the first of the children to be born in the United States. Jim’s mother was born in Italy and came to the United States when she was 10 years old. She spoke fluent Tuscan Italian and later learned English.

As an adult, Jim (pictured at right) visited his mother’s home in Ogliastro Cilentro, Italy, which is known to be the home of some of the best olive oil in Italy. When he was there, he discovered a family library of hand-written books from the 1400 to 1500’s. Jim never saw his father’s village but it is located on Mount Cairo in Italy. And to further establish his Italian heritage, Jim was able to find records of both sets of his grandparents on the Ellis Island website.

Jim stayed true to his Italian heritage.
His wife Anne is also Italian – both her parents were born in the United States but her grandparents were all born in Italy. Jim’s hope is to someday get the younger generations of the family to Italy for a visit so they can absorb the richness of their heritage.

Jim and his family came to Texas from Rhode Island. Jim received his Bachelor of Science from Bryant University in Rhode Island. After graduating from college, he spent seven years in finance and then 14 years as an operations manager for a construction equipment company. The next 10 years, he was a partner in a wholesale costume jewelry business and before leaving Rhode Island, he spent years in real estate development, taking raw land and developing subdivisions/communities and selling the lots to home builders. Anne had a 33-year career with what is now known as Verizon.

Today, Jim and his daughter Kristen Vartian are partners in the real estate industry. They work together as a team for Ebby Halliday, REALTOR(S) in McKinney, and that is how I first met them – I was managing the office.

From the day they came on board they were a part of what is known as the “Ebby Family.” No matter the project: helping with the United Way Campaign, Relay for Life, Salvation Army, or any of the office events or gatherings, Jim was there. He would load tables, set-up booths, walk the walk or run the run.

Today, it is the same. And to add to an already good thing, Jim brings the family when it comes to giving back to the community. For those who know, Anne is one of the best cooks in McKinney and she is always there with treats for any occasion or project.

Jim is most proud of his participation in the McKinney Kiwanis Club. He likes the fact that there is a good mix of generations and gender in its membership. He is always helping with all the projects because he truly believes the organization’s projects are worthwhile.

There is a twinkle in his eye when he talks about the joy of the children being rewarded for good grades and perfect attendance through the “Terrific Kids” program. And, he is especially proud of the project to build wheelchair ramps for people who might otherwise be shut-in.

He and other Kiwanis members personally construct the ramps for absolutely no cost to the recipient. The organization also raises funds through their Pancake Breakfasts to be able to donate to organizations such as CASA and the Food Pantry.
Like so many who give back to the community, Jim says that he receives much more than he ever gives.

Gerry Batte Russell of McKinney writes about people who enjoy giving back to the community. She is a Licensed Texas Real Estate Broker, and she is well-known for her work in the community as Manager of the McKinney Ebby Halliday REALTORS’ office
(July 1999 to Nov 2010 with approximately 90 REALTORS and staff.) Gerry served as President of the Collin County Association of REALTORS (2006).

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