Reflections On A Simple, But Dignified Life
A Eulogy To Mr. Joe L. Bettie


By Emmanuel Dolo


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
February 4, 2005

A few days ago, a friend called to give me very sad news. The information was that Mr. Joe L. Bettie, Liberia’s foremost mathematician had died. Born on January 3, 1929, unto a family of little means, Joe L. Bettie set the pace for many Liberians who would later pursue careers in mathematics. But while his professional career which spanned nearly 40 years at the Ministry of Education and Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) impacted many lives, the place he made his greatest contributions was how he fulfilled his citizenship responsibilities. Given his long public service, like many of his contemporaries, Mr. Bettie could have sought high government office with an eye to steal from the public coffers. On the contrary, he focused principally on using his skills and gifts to advance the knowledge of his countrymen and women and to build their capacity in mathematics.

His life was a mark of immense devotion to country, profound moral character, and resolute belief in God. He had an abiding love for his wife, children, and relatives and thus welcomed each child that his children brought into his home with grace, respect, and utmost care. He was a remarkable man not because he drew his immense dynamism from his mathematical genius, but from the legacy of hard work, humility, and a life led beyond reproach. Just to watch how he reared his children, teaching them to be good citizens, to study hard, respect law and order, and speak up against injustice taught those of us who visited his home how to live our own lives.

Mr. Bettie was content with the life that God give him. He did not have to rob someone to enrich himself. He also did not have to say a bad word about someone to uplift himself. He chose a niche and carved it for himself and then mentored others to follow his footsteps. At the time when there is a scarcity of Liberian men and women whose examples bespeak adherence to high ethical principles, Mr. Bettie’s life will forever serve as an exemplary beacon for all Liberians to follow.

He give his best to everything that he touched including the birth and rearing of successful sons and daughters, whom themselves are making contributions likely to match, if not exceed the high standards set by their father. When his colleagues were switching jobs to pick the one that give bigger access to corruption, Mr. Bettie chose to remain an educator, acknowledging that his rewards were derived from the lives that he changed.

For me and perhaps the manifold young people who have been short-changed by the preceding generation, by leaving us with few good examples to follow, I would like to close with special words of warmth to Mr. Bettie. We bid you farewell and place you in the same company as Albert Porte and Bai T. Moore, men whose examples give hope that our efforts to reclaim Liberia will not go to naught. When you get to heaven, tell Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman, Jackson Doe, Tuan Wreh and other patriots that we miss them dearly. May God bless and keep you on these new voyages.