Life Story / Obituary
Elizabeth DalyMay 5, 1925 – July 21, 2019
Elizabeth (Bettie) Daly was born Elizabeth Belle Brown on May 5, 1925, making it easy to remember her birthday: 5/5/25. Equally unforgettable is the woman herself. Born five years after American women won the right to vote, this strong woman’s life parallels the story of women in the 2oth century – from childhood on a farm, to suffrage, to work in a tank factory during World War II, to contributing three children to the baby boom, to earning a master’s degree from an Ivy League University, to her elder years welcoming black bears on her property in the woods, kayaking, cross-country skiing, gardening, painting, writing poetry.
Bettie was the youngest of five children born to Jessica and William Brown, arriving 15 years after the sibling closest in age, Grace. Her older brothers Alec and Howard rounded out the brood; a brother named Robert had died in infancy. This tight-knit clan lived on farms outside Traverse City, Michigan. Bettie’s earliest memory is of herself at age three, sitting astride a Belgian workhorse, with her father nearby. All her life, Bettie passionately loved animals, favoring big dogs such as Malamutes, German shepherds, and huskies. Her most beloved horse was an Arabian named Sultan.
Bettie graduated high school in 1943 and college in 1946, earning a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University in 1946 with a major in home economics. She put this degree to good use in creating a beautiful home and sewing clothes (including legendary Halloween costumes) for her three children, twins Sandy and Susie, born in 1953, and Nancy, born in 1956. She planted two trees on either side of the driveway of their childhood home in Battle Creek, Michigan; the trees have now matured and stand tall.
Bettie returned to the work force while her daughters were still in elementary school, as an Extension Home Economist for Calhoun County. In this role, she taught classes, wrote a newspaper column, and had a radio show. At the close of the 1960s, the Cooperative Extension Service of Michigan State University granted her a sabbatical leave and she moved to Ithaca, New York to pursue a master’s degree at Cornell University. Earning her MS in 1971, she wrote a thesis examining the relationship between migrants and the local community in Orleans County in upstate New York. To shake off the stress of writing a thesis, Bettie took flying lessons. For the remainder of her career, Bettie worked in one capacity or another for the Cooperative Extension Service.
When it came time to retire, Bettie had three conditions for her next home: the climate must be cold with a long winter, the town should be near water, and the community should include a college. She chose Marquette in the Upper Peninsula. There she spent many happy hours hiking, kayaking, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing with friends and her daughter, Nancy. In her seventies, she lived in the woods outside Marquette, where she chopped wood for heat, catalogued the wildflowers, and was the nucleus of a group of women who followed the Artist’s Way method of creativity. Eventually, she would publish a book of poetry, A Lode of Odes, co-authored by Elizabeth Yelland. When she moved inside the city limits of Marquette, she was instrumental in founding and building the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning, which continues to thrive at Northern Michigan University.
Her last home was in Fairview in Grand Ledge, Michigan. There she was doted on by a loving staff, who took special interest in the paintings that hung on her wall – water colors of her own making – and French braiding and otherwise arranging her beautiful, long thick salt and pepper hair.
Bettie was preceded in death by her parents and siblings. She is survived by her daughters, Susan Serafin Jess, Sandra Holy, Nancy Bradbury and her partner, Mike Kreft; grandchildren, Kezia Pearlman, Richard Monroe, Sara Holy and Sam Bradbury; niece Billie Jean Stout and nephew Bob Benson and their offspring. All gathered around Bettie to celebrate her 94th birthday and Mother’s Day in May of this year.
Her daughter Sandy summarized Bettie’s influence when she recently compiled a list of things she loved because her mother had taught her to love them: language, education, being precisely well-spoken, animals and pets, water, social justice and civil rights, an appetite for good food, shoes, fitness, and spontaneity. As an example of this last quality, Sandy remembers the time when the newspaper boy delivered the Battle Creek paper on horseback. A neighbor was outraged and called the police, but Bettie was delighted to see a horse in her suburban neighborhood.
Donations can be made in her honor to Bettie’s two favorite causes, Best Friends Animal Society in Utah, and Doctors Without Borders.