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Bettye Willingham performs safety procedures before going on her morning bus route. "They are very strict about these procedures," she says, "but it's for the safety of the children." Procedures include checking the tires, checking under the hood and pumping the breaks. She is proud that Henderson has such strict procedures, she says.

Harvest of Blessings

story by Peyton Hobson

Bettye and Ray Willingham feel blessed to be from Henderson. Both Bettye and Ray’s grandparents are from Henderson. And they love the fact that Henderson feels like one big neighborhood.

“People from Henderson are wonderful,” Bettye says. “We always help each other out.”

Bettye and Ray also feel blessed that she has a job that pays for their insurance. They feel blessed that their two grown sons, Chris and Chip, and four grandkids are doing well in nearby Bowling Green.  And they feel blessed that they found each at a junior/senior mixer in high school and have been in love ever since.

With blessings on so many fronts, they feel compelled to share their blessings with the community.

A big way they share those blessings is through a business they jointly started last year, PartTime Farm, which caters to children and their families. They decided to start the business after Ray retired last year from being a maintenance worker at an aluminum factory in Henderson. The PartTime Farm contains a petting zoo, a bonfire, hayrides, a playground, pumpkin patch, duck pond, and much more.

“We love to have fun," Bettye says. "Our children had fun, and we want other children to have fun.”

It takes a lot of work to maintain the farm, they said. But Bettye and Ray are rewarded when they see the happiness on the children’s faces.

"All hard work pays off when they're here," Bettye says.

The farm yields produce, eggs and beef. The couple likes to share the food with friends. As active members of Bellfield Baptist Church, they also go out of their way to visit and do favors for people in need.

Bettye has been a bus driver for three years.  “I love my kids,” Bettye says. “Just like I love my own.”

For Bettye and Ray, a typical "retirement" isn't an option.

"We enjoy staying busy. Most like to sit around watching TV. We like to be involved in the community," Bettye says. "Hopefully it will keep us younger on the inside."


Bettye Willingham gives instructions before a drill on how to properly evacuate through the back of the bus. Bettye says she does this drill four times a year. "You need to keep your backpacks on the bus," Bettye tells the riders.


Bettye Willingham and her husband, Ray, discuss their honeybee hives on the way to visit a friend at the hospital. They have an additional section of land very close to their farm in Robards, where they grow gourds and keep beehives.


Bettye Willingham offers no solace to her husband, Ray, as he tries to prevent Pillow Pets from falling at Rural King. "Get away from there," Bettye says. "You're going to make them all fall down!"


Bettye and Ray Willingham visit their fellow deacon, Corbett Duncan. The Willinghams and Corbett attended Bellfield Baptist Church together and have worked together for years. Corbett fell and shattered his knee cap.


Bettye Willingham talks on the phone while Tiger the cat watches through the kitchen window. Tiger and the Willingham's dog, Sarah, are best friends, she says. "Tiger hasn't done a good job keeping the mice away," Bettye says, "but he is good at getting moles."


Bettye Willingham cleans her chicken coop every day on the "part-time farm." Willingham feeds the chickens, scoops out the waste and cleans the floor with sanitizer. She collects the eggs and sells them to family and friends. "At least the people who buy my eggs know where they came from," she says.


Bettye and Ray Willingham created the "Honors System" as a payment method for visitors to their farm. Customers who took pumpkins, gourds and such, can leave their payment in the mailbox. "There are more good people than bad," Bettye says. The Willinghams believe good people use the mailbox.


Bettye makes a move during the family game of "Mexican Trains." Players include Ray's brother, Ed, his wife, Brenda, their niece, Melisa Smith, and Melisa's children, Carissa and Logan. "Mexican Trains" is a dominoes matcing game. "You're cheating!" the children jokingly told Bettye. Melisa won the round.


Bettye and Ray Willingham are high-school sweethearts. "Our first date was at the junior-senior dance," Bettye says. "Ray was late." Bettye and Ray frequently tease each other. "I guess you'd say we love each other," Bettye says about their 46-year marriage. Sarah, the golden retriever, gets in on the love.

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