Bassett Medical Center's longtime chaplain to retire


Betsy Jay, Bassett Medical Center’s chaplain for more than 12 years, will retire Tuesday.

Among other things, Jay brought the No One Dies Alone program to Bassett, co-chaired an Arts in Health Care program, officiated weddings for patients and staff and started an emergency food pantry for patients at the hospital.

“I’m very grateful for this time I’ve been here at Bassett, and I take with me so many really wonderful memories,” Jay said. “Some tough moments, but just gracious moments, and I think gratitude is one of those things that is important to me and that I share with others.”

Jay said she emphasizes the importance of being present for patients to Bassett’s medical professionals.

“Even in five minutes, you can, by the way you enter a room, by the way that you’re there at the bedside, demonstrate how much that individual matters more than anyone else, for that short period of time,” Jay said. “I think that, again, is a huge piece of what it is when you believe human beings matter and life is sacred and we’re here to lift up the dignity of each individual and all individuals.”

As a chaplain, Jay has helped people through difficult times. Though she said she’s enjoyed officiating weddings at Bassett, they sometimes have more of a somber tone. She said she recalled marrying a couple where one of the partners had cancer, passing away not long after the wedding.

Though these moments can be distressing, Jay said if she feels she has helped someone find a place of peace or has helped open up a space for this, then she’s done her job.

Jay said she’s looking forward to seeing the Arts in Health Care, a program at Bassett meant to reduce stress and promote healing in patients, their families and providers through the arts, continue to grow.

“It’s just really an area of (where) some seeds were planted ... and someone else is going to water them,” Jay said. “It’s beyond any one of us and it’s always about working with others, being a team effort and collaborating. That’s what makes it possible for me to be able to do what I did here.”

Though she is retiring, Jay said she thinks of it more as closing a very important chapter in her life, which will allow her to figure out where she will go next in ministry.

“I feel very privileged for having been able to serve here for the past 12 plus years,” Jay said.

A search is underway for a replacement, Bassett Public and Media Relations Director Karen Huxtable-Hooker said. Associate Chaplain Suzanne Beddoe will take over in the meantime along with members of the community clergy interested in assisting, and there is an on-call process in place, she added.

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221. Follow her @DS_ShwetaK on Twitter.

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