Remembering Orly

(l to r) Dell Rickey and Betsy Bevington

Rickey Bevington will reflect about two life-changing anniversaries this weekend.

This Sunday, June 3, is the 50th anniversary of the Boeing plane crash at Orly Field near Paris that kiled 106 Atlantans, including Rickey’s grandmother, Betsy Bevington, and great-grandmother, Dell Rickey (pictured above).

It’s also the 10th anniversary of Rickey beginning to understand the tragedy that claimed their lives along with the lives of dozens of Atlanta’s cultural elites, who had been on a month-long European art expedition.

The topic of the plane crash wasn’t one that was discussed as Rickey and her older brother, Alden Bevington, grew up.

“The fact that nobody wanted to talk about it spoke volumes,” recalled Rickey, who is now the Senior News Editor at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta.

But leading up to the 40th anniversary in 2002, Rickey and Alden’s father, Milton Bevington Jr., told his kids that if they wanted to learn more about their grandmother’s death, they could watch a documentary that was coming out called “The Day Atlanta Stood Still.”

So, Alden flew to New York, where Rickey was working at the time, to join her, so the siblings could watch the documentary together.

“It started us talking about Betsy,” Rickey remembered. “It helped us take ownership of our loss. This was our story to own.”

Growing up, most of what Rickey knew was if she mentioned her grandmother’s name, it would trigger tears from her grandfather, Milton Bevington, Sr.

“I never wanted to see Poppy cry,” she said of her grandfather, who had flown to Paris that day in 1962 to surprise his wife and watched as her plane crashed.

Rickey, who is an Atlanta arts leader in her own right as the Board Chair of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, said the 50th anniversary is another opportunity to open a dialogue for many families, as her family has experienced over the past decade.

Rickey’s “Poppy” passed away in May of 2010, which makes their interaction during his final Thanksgiving in 2009 all the more special.

Without her father knowing what she was about to ask, Rickey approached her grandfather with a simple, yet very poignent request.

“Do you have anything of Betsy’s you would give me?” she asked him.

He quickly retrieved Betsy’s class ring from Wellesley College and a very simple broach, telling Rickey that these were the only things she ever wore other than her wedding ring, which she was wearing when the plane crashed.

“My father went pale,” Rickey said. “He didn’t know they existed.”

And now, from time-to-time, Elizabeth Rickey Bevington slips on the ring of the woman for whom she was named.

“It fits me,” she said.

Milton and Betsy Bevington
Rickey Bevington

NOTE: In honor of the incredible arts legacy these families left to the City of Atlanta, we will be sharing ways that the arts can help in the grieving process this Sunday, so check back. To read more about the Orly anniversary, check out the Atlanta Magazine story here or a video piece by the Associated Press here. If you want to participate in the Woodruff Arts Center’s 50th anniversary event this Sunday, visit this link for more information.

Would you like to share your story? Please contact us at griefawarenesday@gmail.com