Updated: Sep 27
Photo: Tom and Lisa Shea with flag they created as part of their effort to have Bettie Jane named to the NJ Hall of Fame.
Just talked to Tom Shea from his Florida home, and once again was in awe of the wonderful work he himself does with kids. He is the Tampa local Tour Director at US Kids Golf and a teaching golf pro in Florida who has never forgotten his roots in Middletown, his friends at his alma mater, Middletown South, Atlantic Highlands, and of course, his favorite golf course in the entire world, Beacon Hall. Seeing all the kids Tom works with…there were more than 200 in the last two days alone, I can’t help but think his love for caring and giving to children stems from his own background. He himself was a foster child and adopted by the terrific Shea family who made his and so many other kids’ lives so much better because of their own love and generosity. His mom, Betty Jane Shea, is Tom’s nominee for the NJ Hall of Fame to let the world know how important it is for families to adopt foster children. If you did not see my story the first time, I’m putting it up again for you to read. Then click the attachment so you can put in a nomination for Betty Jane. It’s your voice telling the world that foster children need help and family love.
ATL. HIGHLANDS – Local folks will remember the Sheas…Bettie Jane and Vinnie from Navesink. The Sheas with all those kids always running around, playing, laughing, having fun. The kids who were in Pop Warner, the Shea kids as altar boys at St. Agnes. Vinnie, who managed everything at Anderson’s Equipment, Bettie Jane who always did everything at St. Agnes Church and school from being active in the PTA to cleaning the church.
You probably never knew it, but all those kids weren’t theirs. Five of them were. But then they began to take in foster children, then after that, they adopted some of those foster children. IN essence, to the Sheas, they were all Sheas, all Vinnie and Bettie Jane’s kids.
Both Bettie Jane and Vinnie have died, her first in 2005, Vinnie the next year.
One of those adopted sons, Tom and his wife Lisa, want to pay back a little to show how grateful Tom is for the life he lived, the success he’s had, the joy he finds in living…all because he was brought into the Shea family when he was eight years old.
Tom is so grateful to both parents, his mom in particular because grown men are like that about their moms. He’s working to have Bettie Jane Shea named as an Unsung Hero in the NJ Hall of Fame.
Even today, Tom is filled with emotion when talking about his parents, the happy days at St. Agnes, the lessons he learned at school and at Beacon Hill. “Bettie Jane lived in Navesink. She saved my life taking me in as a foster child at 8. She and Vinnie adopted me at 13. Bettie Jane and Vinnie took in more than 20 foster kids which included six babies. The last baby Gwen was adopted when she was 3.”
And this is where all your readers can come in. Tom’s got two weeks to have a short form (see link below) filled out by people who knew Bettie Jane Shea, or know how she influenced lives, practiced kindness, goodness, generosity and good humor every day of her life. People can write a short note on how just hearing of Bettie Jane’s generosity in opening her home to foster children who had no homes, kids who, like Tom says, “would have been out on the street or in jail were it not for Betty Jane.” People can write how they were influenced by her example, had a better day for thinking of her smile, played with the kids because they were always great kids thanks to their generous mother. People can write about how fostering children is a challenge, but to Bettie Jane, it was a joy. Or how the Shea house always resounded with the laughter of kids who perhaps only learned to laugh at all because they were foster children of the Sheas.
Tom’s done a lot so far to ensure his mom is in this Hall of Fame. He’s even written a song and had a professional singer not only sing it, but present it in a video along with photos of some of those Shea kids both small and grown, and the happy and loving parents.
He wrote the song, Sing Bettie Jean to the NJ Hall of Fame, then approached Katie Marie, a Texas professional singer, and sang it to her and asked if she wouldn’t like to record it. She did and her song has been a huge hit in promoting everything else Tom is doing for Bettie Jane.
The family created a non-profit organization “Bettie Vinnie fore the kids.” (the spelling’s correct, the reason explained below,) Its purpose is to raise funds not only to mentor foster and adopted kids but also to provide scholarships for the college scholarships.
This year, they were successful in raising sufficient funds to provide two scholarships to high school graduates. But there were 39 youngsters submitted by Embrella, a NJ non-profit organization half a century old whose goal is to find foster homes and services for youngsters, many of whom are abused and must be taken from their parents’ care because of abuse or neglect. Tom’s grateful for the two scholarship recipients, terming the narrowing down to the final selection the toughest thing he’s ever done.
But now he’s worrying about the 37 who didn’t get scholarships this year. So he’s seeking out professionals in all fields… cosmetology, carpeting, masonry, beauty services, any professional would certainly be accepted to serve as a volunteer mentor for a kid trying to learn that trade or that skill. If he couldn’t get them into college on a scholarship, at least he could get them internships and professional mentors to give them a profession or trade they love. There’s no doubt about it, Tom Shea has his parents’ generosity and giant heart.
Successful in his own right, Tom Shea PGA, is a teaching professional at the Tom Shea Junior Golf Academy in Odessa Fla. Success he knows he would never have except for the Sheas. And that’s the reason why it’s Bettie Vinnie FORE the kids.
“ I caddied at Beacon Hill Country Club,” he grinned broadly, remembering being a 12 year old and starting out there. He went on to be an assistant pro at Rumson Country Club, then back at Beacon Hill this time as the pro, then on to what is now Eagle Oaks Golf Club, and eventually moving to Florida, where he and Lisa have lived for 25 years, and opening his own Academy.
If you remember the Sheas if you just feel you know them or love them, if you’re proud of how the Bayshore from Navesink to the Shrewsbury gave them memories and love they have shared as adults, visit the link below. Click on the form for how to nominate a Unsung Hero. Then in a sentence or two, tell why Bettie Jane should be declared an Unsung Hero.
We all know enough about her to recognize she is truly an Unsung Hero. Now it’s time for the state of New Jersey to acknowledge it.
Visit the link: submit Bettie Jane Shea to the New Jersey Hall Of Fame as an Unsung Hero.