Friends share faith through love of writing and service
Bill Ramsey loves golf. He mentions this several times. Of course, he hasn’t played golf since he retired.
This Sunday afternoon, Bill is sitting at one end of the couch in his apartment; his longtime collaborator, Betty Dineen Shrier, sits on the other end. Neither of them is quite sure of his official retirement date, perhaps because things seem to have only gotten busier since then.
"I think it was five or six years ago that he announced his retirement," Betty said. "But I told him he never should have announced it, because then people start calling – ‘Would you do this, would you do that?’"
At their age – Bill, 86, a member of St. Margaret Mary Parish who moved in recent years and frequently attends Mass at St. Robert Bellarmine Church, both in Omaha, and Betty, 85, a member of St. Leo the Great Parish in Omaha – the two could rest.
But driven by faith and a desire to help the church, they stay busy. Both are involved in the Serra Club, which promotes vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
Bill, who with his wife, Pat, raised five children, for years worked in public relations for Boys Town in Omaha and then his own public relations firm.
Betty was married to the late Ben Schrier, an attorney.
Betty and Bill met in 1991, when Betty became the first woman to join the Serra Club. Bill had long been using his public relations skills to help the organization. "Everyone else had a job, and I thought we ought to get more exposure, which we did, thank God. So that’s how I got involved there," Bill said.
"There was a lot of good news from Serra in those days, as it was building, and we got very nice cooperation with the media. Of course, I’d been writing news releases for a good long time; that helped."
But in Betty, he found a perfect writing partner.
"Bill is a public relations guru, and he had connections all over town," Betty said. "He had been there since the 1970s, doing work for vocations for priesthood and consecrated life."
When Betty joined Serra, she and Bill displayed a series of ads Bill had created at national and regional Serra conventions. (Some of Bill’s lines – such as "White collar workers wanted" – are still used today.)
"Bill had created this whole series of ads for vocations that you could put in the school, or in meeting places, or the bulletin boards of the churches," Betty said.
Then Bill, who’d already been writing for the Serra Magazine, asked Betty if she’d collaborate on an article with him.
"I’d never written an article in my life," said Betty, a retired teacher who had also done secretarial work before her own retirement in 1988. "I had an English major and I taught English in grade school and high school, but I didn’t have any personal experience."
"But you’d been correcting me in all the stuff we’d do, so I knew you were a teacher," Bill reminded her.
Spread out before them on the glass-topped coffee table were some of the fruits of that first writing collaboration – five books, four of which were a direct result of Bill and Betty’s Catholic faith.
Both said the church always has been an important part of their lives, and in retirement their projects – whether advocating for the Serra Club or completing yet another book project, including the latest, "From Tears to Tributes: Sharing the Final Journey of Our Loved Ones" – are aimed at new possibilities to share their faith.
"I was almost a priest at one time – thought of it very seriously, and I had so many friends who were Catholic priests and sisters, so I wanted to do what I could – and pretty soon word got around a little bit."
Bill and Betty have never left Serra, even as the number of their book projects grew.
They served on the communications board of the Serra USA Council from about 1996 to about 2006, helping to create programs to attract people with vocations to the religious life. Bill served as communications director and later, the president of the Serra USA Council.
He and Betty also were primary players in the committee for upgrading the set of the Serra Club’s Mass for Shut-ins in the late 1990s.
Today, they still get called on from time to time to do stories or a news release for Serra. Bill had many other affiliations from his days as a public relations guru – Rotary, the Omaha Press Club, the Nebraskaland Foundation – but his and Betty’s connection to the Serra Club endures.
And they enjoy helping out.
"Almost anybody who comes to my door or Betty’s door and asks for something – a newsletter to get started, or an article for something, we hardly ever turn anything down. I’m more satisfied and happy doing something that’s going to make a change in something and do something good.
"I love golf, and I haven’t played golf since I retired."