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Local author, retired teacher passes away

Betty Jo Arnett Lykins in 2019. Photo by Heather Oney

Magoffin County author and retired teacher Betty Jo Arnett Lykins passed away on April 17, 2024, at the age of 87 years old.

In 2019 the SI ran a story about Lykins, who had just published the book “Momma Loved to Dance,” a story about her family. Below has been edited from excerpts of that article and the SI extends sincere condolences to her family during this time.

Lykins always wanted to write a story about her family, but life always seemed to get in the way. She worked, raised six children, and, with the exception of the occasional poem or drama for school or Founder’s Day, she didn’t take the time to fully flex her writing muscles until after her husband died.

“It was good therapy for me,” Lykins said. “We had been married for 62 ½ years and, by concentrating on the book, I was able to deal with my grief.”

For her book, “Momma Loved to Dance,” Lykins focused on her family during the years of 1935 to 1955, set on Johnson Fork at the home where she grew up.

“I always wanted to write,” Lykins said. “Even when I was just a small girl, I would make up dramas in my head, so by the time I started on this book, I knew what I wanted to write and I have been blessed with a good memory.”

Lykins was born in 1936 and, at the time of the SI interview with her, she still could remember World War II vividly, and she was able to intertwine those experiences into her book.

“These are all my experiences and it’s got a twist to it,” Lykins laughed. “There’s some things that happened. My mother grew up in Royalton and it was a boom town and her experiences were very different from our neighborhood on Johnson Fork. My father had worked in Perry County at the Blue Diamond Coal Mine, which was also a boom town, but he was from Johnson Fork, which was a much quieter, slower life.”

Though Lykins had written countless dramas for Founder’s Days and school, as well as for the sesquicentennial in 2010, she said writing the book was a completely different experience.

“The book was written on actual experiences and even though the dramas were based on factual information, I always had to embellish on them. There was no need for embellishing when you can remember everything about the moment.”

The poignant, humorous and mysterious memoir, which we would still recommend to any Magoffin Countian wanting a look back at the county during a different time, is a bit complicated, but flows really well, mixing memories with dialogue, taking the reader back to a different time and a locally familiar place.

Lykins explained that with society as it is, now, with constant news and information being spouted at the population, her book looks at a softer, gentler time, when neighbors were closer and people talked to one another. She did note there are some adult concepts in the book, but hopes society at large could enjoy her story.

“Momma Loved to Dance” is still available on Amazon and can also be found at Magoffin County Public Library.

Lykins taught for 32 years, starting out in one-room schools, then moving on to Salyersville Grade School and Salyer Elementary, as well as spent some time on rotation as a teacher for the gifted and talented program. She resided on Patrick Drive in Salyersville, where she had lived for the past 53 years.

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