Generous, dedicated, talented, feisty, elegant, beautiful; all words that describe an important figure in Osceola County History. Emma Elizabeth Glass, known as “Bette”, was born in Rose Hill, Virginia in 1921. Her brother, Edgar Glass, owned a business in downtown Kissimmee that Bette and her husband Boyd Sprinkle took over. Moving from Maryland in 1962, Bette Sprinkle made Kissimmee her new home and quickly took ownership over beautifying her community. Bette had a love for interior decorating and would enter a friend’s home, rearrange a few items, and have the place looking fresh and new. This love of decorating was a catalyst in Bette’s decision to turn her brother’s store into an interior decorating and drapery business. Having no children, Bette and Boyd often spent time with relatives’ children; nurturing and educating them like they would have done for their own. This included going into business with her niece, Lauren Zito, who helped run the drapery shop.
Located right in the heart of downtown, “Draperies and Interiors by Bette and Lauren” could be found at 23 Broadway, the storefront “Jammers Music Center” currently occupies. Bette was often seen out front her vibrant yellow storefront, sitting on a bench, talking with passersby or picking up trash. She was known to treat all the downtown area like it was her own front yard, even driving up and down Broadway to water and weed the plants. This wasn’t too farfetched of an idea considering Bette and Boyd took over the space above the store, renovating it into a 9-room apartment, and own several buildings downtown. Broadway really was the closest thing to a yard Bette had.
Bette’s commitment to beautifying Kissimmee didn’t stop with Broadway. She was a member of countless committees and associations, served as president of the Downtown Business Association for 25 years, and even helped found the Osceola Daily Bread soup kitchen. All this work allowed Bette to have quite the impact on Kissimmee. If you have ever been downtown and noticed twinkling lights, have participated in the Kissimmee birthday celebration, or have visited the library or civic center; then you have experienced some of the projects Bette helped advance. Perhaps one of her more famous undertakings was getting all the benches in downtown Kissimmee painted yellow, often referred to as “Bette Sprinkle Yellow”. Bette was also very involved in her church, First United Methodist Church in Kissimmee. She served on the board to restore the sanctuary, replaced the handrails (from which she scrubbed pigeon droppings) and doors, had the old bell tower placed on church grounds, served on committees, bought the chimes, and faithfully attended services. Bette was known to not only promote a cause, but to do most of the works needed to see it succeed. She was also known to toot her own horn!
Among the countless awards and appreciation Bette received was the honor of being named the “First Lady of Osceola County” for 1997 by Beta Sigma Phi. And, Bette was certainly deserving of the title, too. She was an exemplary advocate for her town and brought a freshness that Osceola County truly benefitted from. On April 19, the First Lady Tea was held at First United Methodist Church in honor of Bette Sprinkle. A special event, which included a toast to Bette, as well as, a light roasting, was held in her honor. Her family and friends were in attendance, as were local officials. Bette dazzled most everyone she met and they all turned out to be a part of her celebration. Such an honor was this that Bette even had the title embossed onto her business cards. Youthfulness was certainly not wasted on Bette Sprinkle. So long as she could, she was doing things to help others. This enthusiasm was not just a personality trait for Bette, but a wardrobe theme, as well. A former model, Bette was no stranger to impressive clothing and could often be seen donning a brightly colored ensemble which included a matching hat, as well as, an anklet, bangles, and a decorative shoulder pin.
Kissimmee residents remember Bette for her work ethic, her kindness, and her impeccable style. After her passing in 2004 at the age of 83, a memorial was created in Bette’s honor by artist Sandra Storm. The bronze likeness of Bette Sprinkle sitting on a bench with folded hands, her legs elegantly crossed, a smile on her face and her signature hat on her head was placed in Toho Square near Pleasant Street and Darlington Avenue in 2006. Occasionally, a bouquet of flowers was placed in her hands in memoriam of Bette. Few tourists may have been familiar with Bette’s story and all she did for Kissimmee, but that didn’t stop them from a photo opportunity with the iconic statue. Even locals could be found sitting next to Bette on her bench. It certainly was a marvelous place to stop and take in Kissimmee.
With new improvements slated for the city in 2016, Kissimmee Main Street asked the community to help decide where to move Bette’s memorial. Many suggestions were made but it was finally decided to move the statue to the front of 23 Broadway, the original site of store, Draperies and Interiors by Bette and Lauren. With many having memories of Bette sitting outside her shop on a bench, and her efforts to have all the area benches painted the same bright yellow as her shop, it is only fitting that Bette’s memorial should include none other than her sitting on a bench in the heart of downtown Kissimmee.
The bench remains outside of Bette’s former storefront. As does the likeness of Bette as a reminder of the woman that helped improve and enhance Kissimmee; the woman exceedingly deserving of the title the First Lady of Osceola County, Bette Sprinkle.