Purdue Dean of Students Emerita Betty M. Nelson is from Bluefield, West Virginia. Bluefield is named after the meadows of chicory that wave in the summer breeze once tinged with coal dust.
I stopped by Betty’s childhood white colonial home at 1003 Heatherwood Road, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Two towering pin oak trees grace the front yard. As a child, Betty heard the tree’s branches rustle against her second-story bedroom window. She was probably nestled in bed reading a Nancy Drew book. The fictional Nancy Drew was one of Betty’s heroes.
The Nancy Drew Mystery that was published the year Betty was born was The Message in the Hollow Oak. Appropriate, as Betty would grow up listening to the pin oak leaves softly scratching against her windowpane. I plucked a cluster of fallen leaves from the ground at 1003 Heatherwood and placed them in my personal copy of The Deans’ Bible.