Betty & Joe: In her own words
This story is an excerpt from a collection of family history and stories compiled by Betty Jo Rasberry Nester for her children and grandchildren before her passing in May of 2010.
After growing up in Soso, she attended Mississippi College and graduated with a degree in English in May of 1952. She moved to Natchez, MS where she taught at Natchez High School. This is the story of how family connections, an act of kindness, and the passing of time spent growing together resulted in a marriage that would stand the test of time and inspire the generations to follow to pursue the same.
We’re so thankful to be able to share her memories with you.
“Little did I know how much my life was about to change when I received a Graduate Assistantship in English from Ole Miss in the spring of 1953.
I had found my first year of teaching harder work than I thought, and I wanted to try something different. My dad thought I should at least try two years teaching before venturing into a new field. After Christmas 1952 I got busy and wrote applications to Ole Miss, Tulane and Vanderbilt for an assistantship to work on my Masters. This satisfied my daddy, but I had to leave Natchez on a 1 year Leave-of-Absence.
At any rate, I was thrilled to be going to Ole Miss even though I had never been there and had no clue how I would travel home for visits (I did not have my own car).
My Aunt Lodell was acquainted with the L.L. Nesters from Jasper County; and one Saturday while she was working at the Bay Springs Store, she visited with Mrs. Nester.
Wouldn’t you know that the Nester’s son, Joe, after serving in the Korean War, was enrolling at Ole Miss the fall of 1953; he had his own car, and according to his mother, would be happy for me to ride home with him.
Introducing: Joe Ned Nester
Joe was born February 4, 1930 at his Nester grandparent’s home. He lived with his parents, Leonard and Mattie Read Nester, at the Lumber Camps in Jasper and Jones County until he was about 7 years old.
Throughout the years he attended school in Moss, MS, later to Ras, Rose Hill and graduated from Bay Springs High School in 1948. He was an excellent basketball player at Rose Hill and Bay Springs. As a junior at Bay Springs he played in the first football game he ever saw!! He was quite popular with the girls too!
He went to Jones Junior College – joined a National Guard Unit for some extra money and found that unit federalized in 1950 when the Korean Conflict began. He was stationed at Fort Benning, GA – taught mechanics at the Infantry School.
After his discharge in 1952, he came home and worked in his Uncle’s Hardware Store in Bay Springs. He installed the first TV in Bay Springs while working there.
An offer accepted
So after hearing about Joe’s offer, the following week I proceeded to Read Hardware Store in Bay Springs where Joe was working to introduce myself and ask about riding home with him. He seemed agreeable – said he would like to come down to Soso and make some plans. We had a nice visit at my house, and everything was in order.
Registration came around a week or two later – my dad and Aunt Lodell had moved me and my stuff to Ricks Hall on campus. I saw Joe briefly at registration, and he invited me to a movie – only problem I already had a date with Charles Allen, whom I had known at Mississippi College!
About our next meeting, Joe asked me to go to a football game on campus. Problem was he and several other boys went to a classmate’s apartment, had too much “spirits”, and he forgot about me! Bumpy start to this romance!
Finally by October we had been out to eat several times and began to be better acquainted. By this time it was time to go home for a week-end visit. This included a movie on Saturday night, and I met Joe’s family on Sunday.
Campus football games became dates – even the MSU game in Starkville. Sunday breakfast at the Alumni House followed by church at either the Baptist or the Methodist Church became routine. Eating at Kiamis or Mistillis was fun, and occasionally we drove to College Hill, Taylor or Sardis Lake.
Ole Miss was an “eye opener”, but I loved it from the first day. All football games were in the afternoon (no stadium lights) – everybody dressed up for the game as if for a party! The campus was beautiful – especially fall and spring – and there were neat shops and wonderful restaurants downtown. Neilson Department Store on the Square was a special place.
By Christmas I guess we were an “item” and seeing each other every day – don’t know when we studied!
The beginning of a new life together
Fall of 1954 rolled around, and I had to go back to Natchez! It was fortunate that gasoline was cheap and also telephone bills – we made many trips back and forth from Oxford to Natchez (yes, I drove!) and we talked a lot on the telephone. Finally that school year came to and end, and we could think about a wedding.
By spring 1955 we had it all worked out for getting married. We were married at Soso Baptist Church on May 29, 1955 and honeymooned at Fairhope on Mobile Bay. That summer we lived in Pearl, near Jackson. That fall we headed back to Oxford for Joe’s senior year, lived in Tyler, Texas for a time and later moved back to Soso to take over the operation of my father’s store and to raise our two children, Lauren and Bill.
We went back to Ole Miss many times over the years. It was a wonderful place to date and fall in love.”