By Katherine Dials
Welcome to MyAncesStory, where we help you create the story of your family tree. We help you get beyond “just the facts” and discover the stories that make your family tree.
Speaking of family stories, one that is very near and dear to our hearts is about two people who, without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Proudly presenting, Donald Quenton Layne and Hazel Elizabeth “Betty” Stephan (shh.. Don’t tell her we told you that her first name is “Hazel”)! Today would be their 65th wedding anniversary.
Don was born on March 10, 1930 in Betsy Layne, Kentucky to William and Margaret Layne (bonus points if you know where Betsy Layne, Kentucky is). He was one of five sons, though only four survived to adulthood. Growing up during the Great Depression wasn’t always easy, but in later years Don would speak fondly of his time in Kentucky. He particularly enjoyed talking about coming home from school and his mother would have fresh out of the oven sweet potatoes waiting for him and his brothers. His family later moved to Richmond, Virginia, where Don attended John Marshall High School. He was an All-Virginia football player who receive full football scholarship offers from over 30 universities. He decided to attended The College of William and Mary, and went on to play football for four years before graduating in 1953 with a degree in Economics.
Betty was born on May 3, 1931 in Summerville, Pennsylvania. She was the only child of Harold and Hazel Stephan. Though born in Pennsylvania, she grew up in Arlington, Virginia. Unlike much of America during the Great Depression, her family remained fairly well off. Her father was able to keep his job throughout the Depression. As fate would have it, Betty also attended The College of William and Mary, and that’s where she and Don would meet during the first week of their freshman year.
As his grandchildren were growing up, Don would frequently tell them that he knew the first time that he saw their grandmother that she was the woman he was going to marry. They went on their first date on September 23, 1949 and married two years later on August 14, 1951.
After graduating from William and Mary, Don had the opportunity to play professional football. Several teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) sent him offer letters. He turned down this opportunity and chose instead to dedicate his life to serve in the United State Marine Corps. Throughout his 30-year career, he traveled and lived in many distant places. Though they could not join him every tour, Betty and their three daughters did when permitted. They lived up and down the East Coast and even lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti for a few years in the early 1960s. One of Betty’s proudest accomplishments was starting the first Girl Scout troop in Haiti.
The family eventually settled in Woodbridge, Virginia, where Betty began teaching at Marumsco Hills Elementary School in 1964. Many of her former students have referred to her as “the best teacher I ever had.” While in Woodbridge, Don continued to serve his country, including two tours in Vietnam before retiring in 1976. After retirement he continued his service to his country when he was asked to join the State Department as the Associate Director of Plans and Operations for the Sinai Support Mission and later as Consultant with the Multi-National Force and Observers (an international peacekeeping mission born out of the Camp David Accords).
Don had a lifelong love of carpentry. In his “retirement years” he began his own business as a contractor and home builder, with Betty there to help him run the business. He had a great talent for woodworking, which can be seen in every project he worked on, ranging from custom-built home to rocking horses that he made for his grandchildren. If you’re ever near Marine Corps Base Quantico, stop in at the Globe and Laurel (located off base, south on Route 1 from the main gate) and take a look at some of the beautifully crafted, custom made tables that he made.
Sadly, Betty left us November 19, 2011, just three months after her 60th wedding anniversary. Don passed away three years later on September 17, 2014. However the universe works in mysterious ways. Betty’s viewing was held on her oldest daughter’s birthday (November 23rd) and her funeral was held on her youngest daughter’s birthday (November 25th). They both felt it was only fitting, she was there to see them into the world, and now they were seeing her out. Not to be outdone, Don’s funeral was held on the 65th anniversary of their first date.