Young Betty Jean Hixen was raised in a family of Polish and Irish descent, who were coal miners in Jordan, West Virginia. Just three miles away, her future husband, William (Bill) Meredith, lived with his family of Welsh and Irish ancestry. They were farmers. The two were destined to love, and met when she was a freshman and he was a senior, on the school bus ride to East Fairmont High School.
Betty joked, “He said it was love at first sight!” Bill parried, “It was very sneaky, if it was.” She invited him to her 14th birthday party, to which he brought her a gift of Whitman’s Samplers candy. They liked each other and started dating that spring. Bill was scheduled to attend college at Fairmont State, located in the same town, so they continued to see each other.
Bill had a pony colt that he sold to get money to buy a ring, and he proposed to her at Christmas, 1954. He doesn’t think she was surprised. They married at their local Presbyterian Church, amid 100 degree heat on August 20, 1955, after Bill had completed his final year at Fairmont State. Betty started Business college that fall.
Graduating with a degree in Biology Education from Fairmont State College, Bill thought he would, “…get a job as a high school teacher and that would be that.” But that spring, a new professor at Fairmont recommended that Bill go to graduate school at West Virginia University (WVU) for free to serve an assistantship there.
The newly married couple moved to an apartment near WVU, where Bill received a stipend of $750 per year. Betty joked, “We went to the 10 cent Saturday Matinee for entertainment. The question was whether we could afford another 10 cents for pizza after the movie.”
While at West Virginia University, their first child arrived—a girl they named Melinda. Soon after, the assistantship came to an end and Bill had no idea how or where to apply for a job. His thesis advisor had heard about a vacancy at Mount St. Mary’s College. Bill applied and was hired right on the spot in 1957.
At Mount St. Mary’s, Bill was an instructor in biology. He said, “They have ranks, and instructor is the lowest, and that’s what I was.” Here, they had two more children, Michael and Fred.
While Bill attended the University of Maryland to obtain his doctorate, Betty raised the kids. The couple then moved to Emmitsburg and settled into the town.
Once the kids were in school, Betty worked at Sperry’s Ford in Emmitsburg, managing business affairs; after a few years, she worked as a teacher’s aide at Emmitsburg School. This job lasted a short twenty-seven years. Betty said, “I knew just about everybody in town, and now know hardly anybody.”
Family trips usually revolved around National Science Foundation (NSF) grant-funded studies. The family went to Colorado for an ecology study, Arizona for a desert biology study, and North Carolina for genetics. The whole family would go, and they met lots of nice people and kept in touch with them.
Bill received the Sears Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1990. This was a prestigious national accolade. After forty-one years at Mount St. Mary’s, he retired. “It was my first and only job. I ended up as the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.” He retired in 1998.
Bill received another accolade when he was invited to speak at Mount St. Mary’s commencement after he retired—this was the first time since the 19th Century a faculty member was asked to speak.
On the home front, the Merediths have raised a garden since the summer of 1954. Betty started entering the Thurmont and Emmitsburg Community Show with vegetables and baked goods, and won many ribbons. She said, “I could paper this whole house with the award ribbons. It was fun!” Unfortunately, she suffered a broken hip a few years ago and couldn’t enter anymore.
Bill has written his monthly column entitled “The Retired Ecologist” in local newspapers since the 1990s. The column has appeared in the former Emmitsburg Dispatch when Bo Cadle started it, then for the Emmitsburg Dispatch when Ray and Jennifer Buccheister ran it, in the short-lived New Emmitsburg Chronicle, and now, it appears in the Emmitsburg News Journal. About the column, he said, “I hope the reader will know things about ecology by reading that they didn’t realize they learned.” September’s issue will include his 185th column, featuring an interesting story about his and Betty’s wedding and marriage.
Their three children have children of their own now. Melinda and Fred both retired from Verizon, and Mike’s a jeweler. The three youngest of six grandchildren are in college, while a computer specialist, an international economics graduate, and an events coordinator round out the group.
The family gathered at their home on August 23 to celebrate their 60th anniversary.
They’ve led an interesting life together, impacting many by imparting knowledge and nurturing growth. Bill and Betty, we wish you many more years of happiness!