By GERRY BATTE RUSSELL
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 (www.mylifevantage.com/gerrybatterussell) 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.