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Betty Rhodes gave the Carolina Theatre 18 years of distinguished service, and she received a lifetime of memories in return.
“To be able to come to such a wonderful building every day for so many years has been an incredible experience,” Rhodes said a day before she retired from the Theatre. “I fell in love with the place. It’s magical.”
Though she left the Carolina on May 23 after nearly two decades of exemplary employment, Betty’s joyful demeanor, positive attitude and indefatigable energy will remain ever-present in the memories of the employees at the Theatre.
“We’d never find anyone who means as much to the Carolina Theatre as Betty has for 18 years,” said Carolina Theatre President/CEO Bob Nocek.
Betty’s accumulated historical knowledge of the Theatre, outstanding personal qualities and professional skills in marketing, community outreach and educational programming make her impossible to replace in the organization.
“What she’s brought to the Carolina for nearly 20 years is a passion for educational programming and a deep connection with the Durham community. We can’t just bring a new employee in and expect to get that from them,” Nocek said, noting that several staff members will assume Betty’s various duties.
After an 11-year tenure in the Durham school system prior to working at the Theatre, Betty came to the Carolina in July of 1996. She served in the role of volunteer coordinator and assumed various marketing responsibilities before starting the educational outreach program that has become the venue’s Arts Discovery series.
“Being able to program and present shows to children was like being able to teach without being in a classroom. Giving so many children an opportunity to see things they might not otherwise see was very fulfilling for me,” Betty said.
One young visitor attending a show as part of the Theatre’s Operation Breakthrough program couldn’t contain her excitement. Her remarks gave Betty the most memorable moment of her long career at the Carolina.
“She walked through the doors and said ‘This place is soooo marvelous,'” Betty said with a laugh. “That’s what I live for: the feeling kids get coming into this amazing facility. It’s what I felt, too.”
Betty also mentioned meeting and greeting stars such as Melba Moore and interacting with many educational professionals and tour agents as highlights of her long tenure at the Carolina.
After serving under three different administrations at the Theatre, Betty was pleased to have seen the Carolina re-establish its place as Downtown Durham’s most distinguished performing arts venue. City council recently approved a new long-term contract renewal with Carolina Theatre of Durham Inc., the nonprofit organization operating the venue.
“I’m very proud of the Theatre: the way it looks, the shows and the people behind the scenes. I love Bob’s vision for the future and his ambition for the Theatre to be bigger and better. I feel like it’s in great hands,” Betty said.
“Betty’s one of the last people on staff to have seen so many different incarnations of the Theatre, from physical changes to changes in leadership and direction,” Nocek said. “People who have experienced all that remind us why we do what we do. It’s the reason we’ll miss her.”
Betty’s retirement from the Carolina Theatre will allow her to spend more time with her husband, Phillip, her daughter and son-in-law, Athlea and Richard Clark, and her grandson, Rykem.
However, despite 10 years in social services, more than a decade in the school system and 18 years at the Carolina, Betty isn’t totally retiring. She is a partner in Coffee & Creame at Durham’s Northgate Mall. The shop serves Organo Gold Coffee and sells Real Time Pain Relief (RTPR), an FDA-approved homeopathic topical pain relief creame.
No future role will ever replace what Betty experienced at the Carolina Theatre of Durham, she says.
“To be able to work independently, have the flexibility to create and be able to have input on the direction of programming every day made me feel valued and appreciated. It’s what made me stay so long,” Betty said.
“I was able to work in both education and entertainment for nearly two decades. I couldn’t have asked for a better job.”