Calhoun County

Calhoun Centenarian: A World War II riveter, avid traveler, and prolific and proficient seamstress

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series. As part of our regular coverage of all things Battle Creek and Calhoun County, in coming weeks On the Ground will be highlighting the centenarian stories on our website and social media platforms.

Bethel Adamov, 101, was a “Rosie the Riveter” during World War II when she worked for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation Propeller Division Branch in Indianapolis, Ind., making parts for the SB2C-1 Helldiver. That was just one of several jobs she has held in her 101 years.

Born in Ann Arbor in 1920, she was adopted by Fletcher and Florence Barrington at the age of two months and came to live in Battle Creek. She was an only child, but when she was 2 years old a family by the name of Walters built their home next to hers, and she became inseparable friends with their daughter Margie. They were such good friends that Bethel would frequently be included on family trips with the Walters.

Bethe’s family’s first car was a Model A Ford and as soon as they got it her mother, Florence, learned to drive. In the summer she drove Bethel to Goguac Lake to go swimming every day and her father Fletcher would walk to work. When she was seven she began playing piano and gave her first recital at age 17 where she had to play eleven songs from memory.

She attended Lakeview Schools with three of Calhoun County’s other Centenarians – Millie Cooper, Nerva Tripp, and Madelyn Watts. After graduation, she got a job working in the traffic department at Kellogg Company until her marriage in 1943 to her husband Louis. Their wedding took place at the First Congregational Church and they honeymooned at Niagara Falls. They had two daughters, Suzanne in 1945 and Kathy in 1950.

Louis was drafted in World War II and after his military service, he worked in the finance department for Percy Jones Hospital (which was first the Battle Creek Sanitarium and is now the Hart-Dole-Inouye Federal Center) and then for the VA Hospital in Fort Custer until his retirement. Louis would carpool to work so Bethel could have their only car. They were married for 68 years, and Louis made sure to pay his bride a compliment each day, something their daughters still remember.

While her daughters were in school Bethel made all their clothes, including matching outfits for their dolls. Kathy won best dressed in high school thanks to her mother’s excellent seamstress skills. Kathy said she could pick out any pattern she wanted, and Bethel would make it for her. Once, she made more than 30 costumes for her daughter’s high school play. When she wasn’t busy sewing, the family took many vacations up north on Indian Lake. Bethel was also very involved in her church leading fundraising craft projects for the church’s sisterhood group.

Bethel has always been an avid reader and she loves to travel. She frequently took trips to see her daughter in New York where she fell in love with Broadway shows. At last count, she had over 80 playbills. She saw Yule Brenner in his last performance of the Broadway hit, The King and I. Bethel is also a staunch animal lover, going so far as to being kicked out of the former Jacobson’s department store in Kalamazoo for writing notes against wearing fur on the tags of the fur coats in the store.

Bethel has embraced technology and thinks that the television was one of the most amazing inventions of her time. She credits her faith for getting her through the tough times and holds onto the saying the cure for heartache is hard work. Her happiest moments were when she got married and when her daughters were born. She has four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her favorite foods are ice cream and popcorn.

Her advice to younger people is to find a good spouse and work to be happily married.