American Red Cross to honor 94-year-old Scottsdale resident

Betty Grenig sitting in the cockpit of an F-16 on her 90th birthday. (submitted photo)

Betty Grenig sitting in the cockpit of an F-16 on her 90th birthday. (submitted photo)

From knitting socks for troops to boosting their morale, Betty Grenig has devoted 76 years helping soldiers as an American Red Cross volunteer at military bases around the world.

On Oct. 20, Red Cross staff and volunteers are hosting a retirement party for “Miss Betty” as her friends fondly refer to her.

The Red Cross is dedicating a conference room in her honor at the Greater Phoenix Chapter office in Phoenix.

When Ms. Grenig first start volunteering at the Red Cross in 1939, she was reluctant.

“My mom made me join the Red Cross when I was a teenager — I had to knit socks for the troops.  It made me mad because she did it to keep me out of trouble with the boys and knitting wasn’t nearly as much fun as hanging out with the guys,’’ stated Ms. Grenig in a press release.

But she quickly found that she enjoyed volunteering and she kept donating her time for nearly eight decades. She has touched the lives of thousands of troops and their families.

At 94-years-old, she figures she’s ready to retire.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Grenig has volunteered at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.  She drove from her Scottsdale home twice a week, wearing her 1950s “Grey Lady” uniform.

She had served there as informal chief morale officer — as she shredded patient records for the medical unit.  She took brownies every Thursday, and cut them into one-bite pieces so, as she puts it, “If your CO walks up, you can swallow the evidence fast.”

Betty Grenig climbing into a F-16 jet. (submitted photo)

Betty Grenig climbing into a F-16 jet. (submitted photo)

On her 90th birthday, the base commander at Luke Air Force Base gifted Ms. Grenig with an F-16 flight on her birthday.

Her cardiologist wouldn’t clear her to take the flight and, in true Betty fashion, she was more than a little irritated. She determined to at least get to sit in the cockpit.

“I realized I was going to have to climb way up there on a narrow ladder and get into that little bitty cockpit.  And I sure didn’t want to embarrass myself by not being able to do it,” stated Ms. Grenig in the release.

So she practiced climbing steps on a stool in her kitchen.

“I didn’t tell my kids because, well, they worry I’ll do something dumb like break a hip,’’ stated Ms. Grenig.

Earlier this month, her friends at the air force base threw a party for their beloved “Miss Betty.”  Her quick wit had the whole room rocking with laughter from the brass and young troops to her family and fellow Red Cross volunteers, according to the release.

Prior to volunteering at Luke, Ms. Grenig had donated her time at Williams Air Force Base from 1962 until 1993 when the base closed. At the time, she also was working for a Scottsdale veterinary clinic handling the front office.

She recalls how foreign pilots were trained at Williams and that brought back fond memories about when she and her husband had assignments in Japan, Korea and the Philippines. Her husband, retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Grenig, died in 2003.

“Volunteering had become a habit and you do things that help people. And I guess I was raised to help someone if you can and the people that I worked with were all wonderful,” stated Ms. Grenig.

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