Gay Beitscher generously gives her time, energy, ideas, and dollars to The Grace Museum and other local groups. She truly loves and supports the arts, and Abilene is all the better for it. The Grace will honor Gay at its annual Grace Gala fundraiser Sept. 30.
Why does she support the arts? “If not me, then who?” Gay said. “Art adds something beautiful and happy to our lives. So many people save their money and don’t use it. I like using mine for good things.”
Gay is a humble soul. She is as lovely and gentle as the flowers that grace her garden, where she adores spending time and nurturing her plants. Lucy and Annie, her poodles, are always by her side. Whether devoting attention to her flowers, her pets, her family, or her community, Gay Beitscher is a natural caregiver.
“I’ve been taking care of people my whole life,” she reflects when thinking back on her childhood.
Norma Gay Weed was born in Baird in June 1941 and grew up there with two older brothers and a younger sister. Both her parents worked, so Gay innately helped look after her sister, Lois Ann, who was born 4 ½ years later. “I taught her how to walk. I taught her a lot of things. We had so much fun together,” she recalls fondly. “We would make milkshakes in mason jars and take them downstairs for our neighbor.”
Taking on such an important role as a young girl undoubtedly shaped Gay into the responsible, hard-working woman she grew to be. She still remembers getting her first paying job at 14, babysitting for 35 cents an hour.
Gay married her first husband, Jimmy Smedley, in 1959 and they had three children: David, Sheri, and Anthony (Tony). Jimmy took flying lessons and became a pilot. Gay stayed home with the kids at first, and later got a job at one of Abilene’s few restaurants – the Towne Crier. She loved it right from the start and enthusiastically worked her way up from hostess to manager, saving her money and buying a lot on Washington Boulevard. “I really enjoyed interacting with everyone and met so many people that I still know today. They all felt like family to me.”
A few years later, she met Seymour Beitscher, who had traveled to Abilene to sell tickets for a motivational seminar. He came to eat at the restaurant and soon worked a deal with the owner, Mr. Fry, to trade his tickets for meals so that he could keep coming back to eat – and to see Gay.
With no job but a little money saved, Seymour moved to Abilene in 1975 and married Gay. He found a building at North 3rd & Cedar and started his own business, AAA Vacuum. Gay worked in the store and filled vacuum orders from Seymour’s sales. The couple lived 40 happy years together working, traveling, and enjoying their kids and grandkids until Seymour passed in 2015.
Gay always loved bringing her grandkids to The Grace. She remembers her grandson, Matthew, being so excited to see a dinosaur exhibit! Gay began volunteering as a gallery attendant in the early 2000s and soon became a member of the museum and its volunteer group, Los Aficionados (LA). When they were brainstorming ways to raise money, Gay offered the idea to sell ads to local businesses for their annual yearbook. Even today, she still sells the most ads. Gay is always willing to help where needed and The Grace Museum is a more wonderful place because of her generosity and hard work.
Contributed By The Grace Museum