LAKE WYLIE -- Betty Riddle fell in love with Clover long ago, and she never got over it. Riddle, a distinguished educator, advocate for students and community friend for all ages, died Thursday at age 67.
A Clover native and graduate of Clover High School who served as superintendent of Clover schools from 1999 to 2003, Riddle graduated in the Winthrop College class of 1963. She continued her education for just about the rest of her life.
After coaching a year of junior high basketball straight out of college, Riddle spent three decades as a school administrator in Mecklenburg County.
In 1999, her collegiate alma mater presented her its Award of Excellence, praising Riddle as "one of the first to champion the need for middle school education."
It was in her hometown of Clover, though, where many remember Riddle not only as a one-time superintendent but also a long-time friend of the community.
"Just like all of our superintendents, she cared most of all for our children, for the students in Clover," said Judy Miller, who went to school with Riddle and who serves as secretary for the superintendent.
When the district needed an interim superintendent, it went looking for Riddle, a recent retiree from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools after 32 years of service, which included principal and assistant superintendent duties. Riddle said she would take the position, Miller recalls, "as long as you don't want me to just sit there and sign a few papers."
"She said if she was going to be the superintendent, she wanted to be the superintendent," Miller said. "If she was going to do it, she was going to do it."
That attitude foreshadowed Riddle's service. Notable strides included the opening of the Crowders Creek schools and the Applied Technology Center. And she led with a no-nonsense approach.
"You knew where she stood," Miller said. "She had definite opinions on things, and she made no bones about it."
Like the time she called up Ron Wright -- whom Riddle had appointed principal at Clover High School -- to offer her opinion of the school's landscaping.
"She said it looks like trash," Wright recalled, adding that he went out that day and found a lawn mower to cut the grass himself. "But at the same time, she would also call you up in a heartbeat if something was really going well."
Wright described Riddle as a superintendent who helped the district during difficult financial times and who enjoyed loyalty from the staff. He spoke of a "consummate professional educator" and the "master mind" behind projects such as applied technologies.
"She was just a very special lady," Wright said. "She always has a place with me, because she was the one who saw something in me that she thought would make a very good principal. That was nine wonderful years."
While many knew Riddle for her work with students, her time with neighbors was equally noteworthy. Not uncommon were Wednesday nights serving at God's Kitchen in Clover. Recently, Riddle began a Good Samaritan program at the church where she grew up and continued to serve.
"When a member starts a ministry, it usually works out a lot better than if I try to start one," said the Rev. John Gess, senior pastor of Bethel Presbyterian Church. "That ministry is a tribute to her, and it's a lasting tribute."
Riddle, the daughter of a church elder, organized a committee to "cater to seniors" with special events, outings and other activities, Gess said.
As a former junior high basketball coach, a "star player" herself and a supporter of athletics and fine arts up to and even past her second retirement, Riddle will be remembered for everything from championship basketball seasons to bringing back five-day-a-week band class and volunteering with the choral booster club, Wright said.
"Beyond that, she was just a great gal," he said.
Former school board member Windy Bartee called Riddle's passing a "great loss to our whole community."
"She kept looking after us even if she didn't have a paid position," Bartee said, adding that Riddle continued as a choral booster after her retirement.
"In my book there are two types of people -- givers and takers," Bartee said. "She was definitely a giver in her lifetime."