Her neighbors wanted to know where she was headed. Turning the corner, Betty – diagnosed with cerebral palsy and mild Down Syndrome – simply replied, “I’m working.”
Buzzing with new information, her next stop was the apartment of her greatest admirer, leading advocate and ultimate ear for gossip.
She was visiting her mother.
“Betty, do not pay any attention to them,” Lila C. Beazley said to her daughter as the two went into her room to watch Law & Order.
“Mama, do not tell me how to run Harison Heights,” Betty replied as a group of caretakers with her laughed.
Lila Beazley had been visiting Betty at Harison Heights twice a week for 12 years, driving across Augusta to buy her daughter clothes and read her stories, wipe her tears and carry her to the psychiatrist’s office when she couldn’t pick herself up to walk.
Now, half a century after agreeing to adopt a malnourished, neglected 10-month-old Betty, Lila, 92, has decided to spend her final years at her daughter’s side.
In May, she moved in next door to her daughter to once again enjoy the Dairy Queen runs, Law & Order episodes and evening gossip sessions the two shared before Betty’s conditions worsened to the point she required professional care.
It’s the first time a mother and a daughter have lived together at Harison Heights. Lila said she was determined to be with Betty again full time.
“I would have not considered going anywhere else,” said Lila, who was forced to leave her home in National Hills after falling three times in the past year. “They would have had to fix me a small room, give me a closet or let me move in with Betty. She’s the joy of my life.”
The Beazleys, looking to adopt in 1961, were promised a child. When Lila saw Elizabeth Olivia – Betty’s birth name – she knew the child needed a friend and that she could not leave the hospital without her.
“She was in such bad shape,” Lila said. “At the time, all she had was a baby bottle. The neglect caused brain damage.”
Lila has worked tirelessly since then to get Betty the best care.
Worried she couldn’t care for her daughter, Lila wrote former state Sen. Charles W. Walker Sr. to secure the Medicaid waiver Betty needed to move to Harison Heights.
Paralyzed with fear and unable to walk because of the stress of her father’s death, Betty Beazley was admitted into the Rehabilitation Health System in 2001. It took three weeks of treatment and therapy to get her walking again.
Lila carried Betty to each session, reassuring her daughter through hours of counseling that Betty would not lose her mother’s support, as she feared. Lila wrote another state senator when health care changes threatened Betty’s removal from Harison Heights.
This time, Ed Tarver helped Betty keep her waiver and avoid a move to a group home.
“Miss Beazley has had to do a lot of advocacy to get Betty the services she needs,” said Beth Miller, the vice president of Walton Community Services, which oversees Harison Heights.
Miller said Lila has spoiled the staff and 15 residents at Harison Heights, giving them candy on their birthdays.
“She is always going above and beyond to help other people,” Miller said.
Now, Harison Heights is spoiling Lila. The organization has set up an outdoor area for her to grow her famous tomatoes.
“The staff here is absolutely wonderful,” Lila said. “You will never find another one like them.”