Friends and family gathered at Coldwater Creek RV Park in Marble Falls on June 25 to celebrate World War II veteran Elizabeth “Beth” Montgomery’s 100th birthday. The event, organized by Montgomery’s family and neighbors, was a celebration of her long life and years of military service.
“For a woman who’s 100 years old, she’s doing pretty d— well,” said Carol Montgomery, one of Beth’s three daughters.
Beth Montgomery was born in 1921 in Panama to Edna and Col. Carroll K. Leeper. An “Army brat,” she spent her childhood traveling and living in places across the United States and foreign countries, including China.
Before enlisting in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in December 1942, Montgomery pursued a college degree in social work at the University of North Carolina, where she met her husband, William Montgomery III. She became a WAAC officer on April 22, 1943.
At WAAC officer cadet school in Des Moines, Iowa, Montgomery served as platoon officer, overseeing physical training for female cadets and teaching them to manage military paperwork. She was later sent to the military district in Washington, D.C., where she pulled from her background in education, psychology, and social work to be a personal affairs officer.
She remained a personal affairs officer until she was discharged from the Women’s Army Corps with a captain’s rank in 1946.
After military life, Montgomery assumed new roles, including that of wife and mother of three daughters: Elizabeth, Carol, and Abigail. She never stopped working and spent much of her life teaching at a Montessori school, Carol said.
“Here was this woman working as a teacher while also being the wife of the ’50s and ’60s,” Carol said. “She held it together. She held the family together. Even today, we call her the matriarch.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit the Highland Lakes, Montgomery’s home was an assisted-living facility in Cedar Park. She moved there from California to be closer to two of her daughters, who live in Coldwater Creek RV Park. She joined the Smithwick community at the height of the pandemic in September 2020.
“When the pandemic hit, everything that you heard in the news about what was going on in these retirement centers was happening to her,” Carol explained. “Coldwater Creek was completely supportive. When I talked to the management about what was happening, they really supported the plan. We looked at a variety of things and decided as a family to build her an RV park model in the spot right across from mine.”
Carol and sister Abigail live in the park and help take care of their mother, who is also their neighbor. Since the day she moved in, Montgomery has been welcomed with open arms into the Coldwater Creek family.
“When they brought her home in, we all worked to get it all hooked up,” said Tom Hauer, Montgomery’s neighbor and one of the organizers of her birthday celebration. “She uses a lift setup. I installed it, even though I’ve never put one of those together in my life.”
The celebration was truly a community event. RV Park neighbors gathered with Montgomery’s family to share memories and smiles over a barbecue dinner. The Highland Lakes Honor Guard presented the colors, and Montgomery was given a handmade quilt by Quilts of Valor-Llano Chapter.
“(Montgomery) is modest,” Hauer said. “She keeps telling me she didn’t deserve (the celebration). But she’s the perfect neighbor. She’s so nice to talk to and so pleasant whenever we go by.”
Montgomery is not only the strong mother figure everyone dreams of having but also a person to aspire to be like, Carol said.
“She raised (my sisters and I) wanting us to be independent women in a way that she couldn’t be,” Carol said. “We all have an admiration for her in terms of her strength and her commitment to not just the family unit but exposing us to all different walks of life.”