It is an overwhelming honor to be here among Betty’s family and devoted friends, gathered to pay tribute to a remarkable lady. I thank you, Peter for asking me to be a part of this very, special celebration of Betty’s life.
Betty always claimed that she came to my 7th birthday party. Whatever the year, it was a long time ago. It was one of the many summers we shared at Quissett Harbor, Betty living on her family’s sloop Valgerda III, while I was with my family boarding at the venerable, Victorian, Quissett Harbor House, near Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
It was a time of simple vacation living, an unprogrammed happy time with family, in an incredibly beautiful setting. In those early days, the parental rule was, "When you can swim across the harbor, you can take a dinghy on your own". When we reached that point, Betty and I saw much more of one another, on board Valgerda, when in port, cruising with the Isoms, or walking barefoot on the beaches, collecting "jingle shells" for bracelets, swimming, clamming, and fishing in the harbor or exploring Tick Point, always keeping clear of the poison ivy.
A few years later we found ourselves at the same day high school in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Betty’s greatest love there was her music. She helped organize a jazz group with some of her classmates and became president of the Glee Club our senior year, when we performed the Brahms Requiem at Symphony Hall in Boston. Quite an experience. She was a member of the Drama, International and Photography clubs, and played basketball.
Betty was always a "prime mover", and unofficially ran what we called a "Date Bureau", caring as she always did for the social welfare of their unattached friends! At that time she was waving "Crimson" banners at the football games. It was well before she had met Peter.
When many of us were still groping for direction, Betty at graduation wrote that her highest ambition was "to cruise around the world." Her love of sailing never waned.
She was off to Smith that fall, 1953, and by her third year was well into "Orange" banner, and sitting on the Princeton side of the football field. In fact, it was at the end of that academic year that she and Peter were married, and headed for Annapolis.
We lost track of one another during the busy years at Hurricane Island.
We reconnected again when Peter and Betty returned to Massachusetts, for Peter’s graduate work at Harvard, prior to Thompson Island.
Betty was back!!! What a thrill!!!! My salty, treasured, childhood friend, re-emerged as a wise, compassionate, wife-mother, teacher, co-founder of the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School and Registered Nurse! She was my consultant for raising chickens, mulching gardens and cooking healthfully.
Betty always said she loved her work in Maine as a visiting nurse. Shortly after returning to nursing in Belmont, her former hometown, she suffered the terrible accident involving both legs. It seemed without self-pity, she aggressively tried everything in her power to overcome her predicament, and did. As she helped herself heal, she maintained the "Willauer discipline", exercised as much as she possible could, became very well read, knit for her grandchildren, and worked on her music. It was a great day when they located a piano and it was moved into their Belmont house.
Peter’s bout with cancer followed and was another tremendous challenge. Betty said she was anxious to get him back home so she could help him during his recovery, this time. Headed to the hospital, she slipped on the ice and broke her arm.
We had some memorable visits together during that period as she healed, and drove to see her father in a nursing home on the Cape.
The return to Cushing was to be the beginning of a happy new chapter for Betty. Back with community and friends, her musical groups, home and garden with "Eight Bells" nearby, she was ecstatic!
A year ago last fall another blow. But just hours before Betty’s surgery which followed, David and Cathy’s baby miraculously arrived in the same hospital.
After Betty’s discharge, when home again in Cushing, she announced brightly, "I have just planted garlic......How’s that for looking ahead and being positive!"
My contact with Betty in Maine was more by phone than in person. She was buoyed by Peter’s incredible care, the frequent visits of Charlie, David and Langley and their families, and the many expressions of love she received.
Last summer with "Eight Bells" back in the water, she was overjoyed spending the warm months with Peter and family doing what she loved most.
Even with the fall’s setbacks, Betty mentioned a few of her highpoints:
I continue to marvel at the spirit and grace of Peter and Betty as they were embroiled in such overwhelming situations and rose above each one of them. What a team! Their faith, courage, hope, strength and determination have been an ongoing inspiration.
Their inclusiveness has been remarkable. Sharing such difficult, intimate personal journeys as theirs, through Langley’s wonderful web site, has brought us all closer to them and their family, enabling us to lend some support, even if in small ways.
I pray for the Special Strength for Peter and his family in the days ahead.
Magnificent Betty was a gift to all of us. Her life, one of helping others find wholeness. We shall miss her terribly, and can never forget her. She is now in God’s hands. Amen.
In closing, I’d like to read a piece by an anonymous writer:
Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not here. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint’s on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.
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