Column: New meaning for the phrase ‘give til it hurts’

Marv Betts

Courtesy photo

Marv Betts

Marv Betts is in the selfless business of helping to save and enhance lives through osmosis. He’s accomplished the feat by devoting his adult life to donating blood on a regular basis, with his total output of documented giving now pegged at 26 and a half GALLONS.

Marv, who moved to Prescott last year with his wife Beth following their 17-year residency in southern Arizona’s Casa Grande, actually launched his donor odyssey in our nation’s Upper Midwest — Grand Forks, North Dakota, to be exact — at the Dak Minn Blood Bank. (Dak Minn? Well yes, as the Red River of the North is the divider between Grand Forks and the state of Minnesota, and is so-called to distinguish it from the Red River of the South separating Texas from Oklahoma. The northern version flows northerly until emptying into Lake Winnepeg in Manitoba, Canada,)

At least two-thirds of Marv’s output over the years has been at Dak Minn, as reflected in a certificate from that blood bank on Aug. 8, 2002, reading: “In recognition of volunteer donations of 17 gallons of blood to a Lifesaving Community Service. Awarded to Marvin E. Betts.” And, for a bit of elaboration on the subject, I called Dak Minn and spoke with Monica Jenssen, who confirmed that Marv’s current 26-plus gallonage is “a really big amount.” She said that each eight donations tallies out to one gallon and that “we celebrate 10 gallons” when each donor reaches that milestone. And so, armed with my trusty pocket calculator, I figure that Marv’s donations over the years equate to some 212 sittings, with visits being limited to minimal 56-day intervals, or roughly a half-dozen per year.

An added plus in Marv’s donor history relates to his blood type, which is O negative. That type is “universal,” he said, and “can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type.” It’s also in relatively short supply, he noted, in that “only 7 percent of the population has type O negative.”

I became aware of Marv’s prodigious donor history from a couple of friends, Dick and Pat Unkenholz, who told of their meeting Marv and Beth at a dinner a few months ago at the Prescott United Methodist Church. The couple was new to Prescott at the time, and in the course of conversation the Unkenholzes learned that the newcomers originally hailed from North Dakota — roots that Dick and Pat also share. Just a bit of “small world” serendipity.

The two couples swapped memories from their earlier Dakota days, but one event experienced by the Betts was theirs only — the 1997 Red River flood occurring in April and May of that year that forced the evacuation of Grand Forks’ population of more than 50,000 residents. It was the most severe flooding of the river since 1826 and caused some $3.5 billion in property damage. But the American Red Cross was particularly helpful in assisting residents in coping with the disaster and eventually returning to their homes, both Marv and Beth stressed.

Despite how cold it can get up there in Grand Forks, the Betts share many warm memories of their time spent while living there, and one reminiscence in particular was pointed out by Marv in the form of a grand 1967 Buick Electra 225 convertible that he and Beth owned for 27 years. He showed me a photo of the gracefully huge vehicle that looked like it might’ve needed wheels in the middle just to turn corners. Marv said that the car, loaded with local dignitaries, was a familiar sight for many years in the city’s annual Potato Bowl Parade.

Meanwhile, Marv and Beth will be adding to their memory bank later this month when they’ll be heading for Winslow for a stay at the La Posada Hotel as they observe their 60th wedding anniversary. Two good people leading the good life.

Contact the columnist at editorial@prescottaz.com.