THOMAS - For years, Elizabeth "Betty" Swantek had to keep much of her life secret. Now the world knows what an amazing person she is.
The Cortland Acres resident is being honored on Wednesday at the Capitol complex in Charleston as part of the West Virginia Health Care Association's "Support Our Seniors" day. She's the fourth Cortland resident to receive the honor in the past four years, joining Danny Ringer, Solena Massi and Champ Sedmock.
Marie Grafton, activities director at Cortland Acres, coordinated Swantek's nomination.
"007 James Bond has nothing on Elizabeth 'Betty' Swantek, who operated in and out of many countries as one of America's female spies during the Cold War," Grafton wrote. "She assisted in assessing, selecting and training candidates to infiltrate the Soviet Union and send back intelligence. Betty worked as an equal with her male colleagues."
It was an amazing experience for a girl who grew up in the small town of Davis, next door to where she now lives again at Cortland Acres in Thomas.
"She left the hills of West Virginia for Washington, D.C., where she worked for the Army Signal Corp in the uncompleted Pentagon," according to Grafton's submission. "It provided a fortuitous opportunity for Betty as she became a member of the Singing Platoon, Drum and Bugle Corp. There she met and sang with several celebrities including 'Ole Blue Eyes' himself 'Frankie' Sinatra, as she called him."
Swantek eventually joined the CIA and traveled the world under a number of different covers.
"For about a year of her life she dressed up daily as a young boy and rode a bicycle about Holland, hanging out to catch bits of information and to photograph possible targets using a camera in her bra then developing and printing the film in her bathroom," Grafton wrote. "For some of her work she was dispatched to an isolated chalet on a lake in southern Bavaria. During her career Betty also posed as a tour director, newspaper correspondent, buyer, someone's girlfriend and someone's secretary."
After her whirlwind around the world, the Tucker County native returned home to Canaan Valley, where she retired to assist with care for her ailing mother.
Now she loves to tell the stories of the adventures that had to remain secret for so many years.
"Betty is an amazing woman, and she's a real joy to have at Cortland Acres," Administrator Don Black said. "As evidenced by our wonderful track record of award-winners, all of Cortland's residents are special, and we're committed to treating them that way."