ACV is Like a Rocket Ship!


Tom and Betty Sheppard were married in Suwannee County in 1949. They have seen many changes in Dowling Park since then.

Betty Sheppard has lived in western Suwannee County almost all of her life, which began in 1932. Since that time, she has seen many changes in the county and at Advent Christian Village (ACV). She even worked there for about a year as an assistant to M.A. Carter — ACV’s top executive from 1957 to 1963.

Betty’s family moved from Suwannee County to Jacksonville early in her life. When they moved back to Suwannee County when Betty was 15, she told her family she was moving back east as soon as she was able. But it wasn’t long before she met and fell in love with Tom Sheppard, and her plan was forgotten.

Betty and Tom were married in 1949. They recently celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. Betty was 17 when they were married, and she still had one more year of high school to complete. Tom was primarily a farmer. He also worked as an electrician during the off season.

The Sheppards’ had a daughter, Cynthia, in 1952 and son, Tommy, in 1956. It was when Tommy was very young that Betty went to work for M.A. Carter. The office was previously the community’s chicken coop. Rumor has it that on hot days there was pungent evidence of the previous use for the building. Even so, Betty enjoyed her workplace.

Tom and Betty Sheppard have been married 69 years. Betty thinks a lot of Advent Christian Village.

M.A. became resident manager of what was then called the Advent Christian Home and Orphanage in 1955. At the time, the Home and Orphanage was experiencing great financial struggles. Betty remembers how M.A. turned things around and most likely saved the organization from collapse. “He was a fine, fine man,” she recalls.

According to Betty, M.A. had a great sense of humor and the two loved to kid each other. One of Betty’s duties was to type thank you notes for donors on an old L.C. Smith typewriter. One day, Betty commented to M.A. that she was surprised at the number of Advent Christians. “I thought everybody was Southern Baptist,” she told him. From then on, when M.A. would see Betty, he would shake his head with a smile and say, “She thought everybody was Southern Baptist.”

Betty also has fond memories of M.A.’s wife, Myrtle, whom she says was “quiet, sweet, gentle and kind,” and their son, Pomeroy Carter, ACV’s first president, who was in college at the time, but was still involved at the Home and Orphanage.

While M.A. was able to bring financial stability to ACV, Betty says after Pomeroy come to work in Dowling Park, things really “took off!” She says, “He was good-looking and nice. Everybody liked him. He had personality and training.”

While Betty enjoyed working for M.A., leaving her children each day was more than she could bear, so she quit to be home with them.

Recently, her husband Tom had some health issues and needed a brief stay in a nursing home. Betty is very thankful he was able to stay just down the road at Good Samaritan Center at ACV, where he received good care and she could see him every day. He’s back home now and recovering well.

Betty says she can’t say enough good things about ACV. Looking back over her lifetime, she says Advent Christian Village now is "like a rocket ship, as opposed to a slow boat to China. It is the star in the crown of Suwannee County."

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