Friends join couple to revel in 50-year union
Three of the guests were in Herbert and Betty Armstrong's wedding.
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Renee Wallace is proud to have served for 13 years in the Navy and to be going after her master's degree in applied health at Youngstown State University.
Both decisions were among several she has made over the years that were influenced by her exposure to Dr. Herbert Armstrong.
Wallace, of Warren, was a pupil at the former Monroe Elementary School when Armstrong was principal at the South Side school. She also remembered his style of running the building and relating to the pupils.
"He had a paddle but never had to use it, because the kids loved him," Wallace said fondly. "He ran the school with love and care, and you could always talk to him."
Wallace was one of about 70 people who attended a luncheon Sunday at St. Augustine Episcopal Church on Youngstown's North Side to honor Herbert Armstrong and his wife, Betty, on their 50th wedding anniversary. Among those at the event were family, educators, other church members and friends, three of whom were in the Armstrongs' wedding.
Reflecting on the past
One of those was Attorney William Green Jr., who met Herbert Armstrong 59 years ago, when Armstrong was a pledge to Green's Youngstown College fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. Later, Armstrong asked Green to take Betty Armstrong to the fraternity's first sweetheart dance, Green recalled.
Before lunch was served, several people shared recollections of the couple as well as how the Armstrongs have affected their lives and career choices. One guest said Herbert Armstrong's encouragement and example paved the way for him to go into medicine.
Herbert Armstrong was the first black elementary school principal in the Youngstown city schools; Betty Armstrong was the city's first black librarian at the main branch of the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.
Herbert Armstrong, 86, made $8 a week at his first job in 1934 at the former Youngstown Towel and Linen Supply Co. unloading laundry trucks. He advanced in the company before deciding to attend Youngstown College in 1946, where he received a degree in business administration three years later.
After deciding he wanted to become a teacher, Armstrong enrolled in Youngstown College's school of education and got his bachelor's degree in 1953 in education. His other degrees were a master's in education administration from Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., and a doctorate in the same field from the University of Akron.
His first experience was as a sixth- and seventh-grade teacher at the former Thorn Hill Elementary School on Myrtle Avenue on the city's South Side, where he spent six years.
Eventually, Armstrong took an examination to become a principal, and in March 1965 he was hired at the former Covington Elementary School, making him the first black elementary school principal in the city school system.
Armstrong went on to serve in that capacity at Monroe and Hillman elementary schools before retiring from Hillman in 1986.
Betty Armstrong met her husband while working part time at Youngstown College's library. She planned to go into teaching, but a friend asked her "to consider library science as a career," she recalled.
About a month after receiving her master's degree at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Betty Armstrong began her career at the library's main branch on Wick Avenue. Her first job was to assign classification numbers to books, something she disliked because it deprived her of opportunities to work with the public, she remembered.
When another opening became available, Armstrong applied and worked with bookmobiles as a children's librarian. Her duties included storytelling to kids in several area schools before the schools had their own libraries, she said.
Armstrong also was a regional supervisor in charge of the South and Fosterville branches. She served for almost 33 years in the library system before her 1986 retirement.
After retiring, Betty Armstrong has been anything but idle. She remains active with St. Augustine Church as well as her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, and is a member of The Links Inc.'s Youngstown chapter. Some ways The Links have worked with service organizations have been by giving them money, helping with art shows and providing free violin lessons to underprivileged kids to help them develop an appreciation for classical music, Betty Armstrong explained.
The Rev. Kelly Marshall of St. Augustine Church praised Herbert Armstrong for his continued work serving as a mentor to young men. The Rev. Mr. Marshall, who's also a church rector, said Armstrong is like "a father figure to a lot of young men."
"He's the kind of person you wish you had 15 more of in the city," Mr. Marshall said.
After retiring, the couple traveled extensively. A sample of their destinations were China, Greece, Russia, Italy and all of the Scandinavian countries, Betty Armstrong said.
Herbert Armstrong, who has some health problems, thanked those in attendance and was philosophical about his accomplishments and long-term career.
"I thank my wife for staying with me all these years, and I refuse to be helpless.
"Let the work that I have done speak for me," he said.
Leigh Greene, a cousin of the couple, and Anne Tate, a longtime friend, organized the luncheon.