My Aunt Betty died yesterday. Her death had been imminent in the weeks prior. She was 91 and most ready to go; at her 90th birthday she told us she was wearing the outfit she planned to be cremated in, and that she'd had a photo made for her obituary in that outfit. (She was beautiful!) This is her at her birthday party, saying that the thing she had learned in life was that you just have to laugh at yourself and other people, or otherwise you'll cry. Words to the wise.
She remained vigorous all her life, riding horses on dude ranches into her 80's. She traveled widely, hiked everywhere, and stayed in shape with Weight Watchers.
She was the first woman I ever saw to make a home on her own. After my uncle died, Aunt Betty sold her house in Houston, where she had been a teacher & principal for many many years, and moved to Colorado to be near her son and daughter-in-law. She and Rosetta opened a preschool in her basement and taught and loved and played with little children there for years. They also camped, fished, and enjoyed the beauty of Fort Collins.
My family went to visit one summer, and I was about 13. I remember looking at her beautiful, airy, clean little home with a view of the mountains, and thinking, "no one else told her where to put these things! she did this all herself!" It was revolutionary for me.
Later, she moved to Boise, Idaho, and then back to Lake Jackson, Texas. She lived near her sister, my Aunt Emily, in Lake Jackson for several years, enjoying contact with her and Uncle Oliver and their families. She had the best attitude of anyone I have ever known...despite a large share of the sorrow of life.
She was also one of the most talented crafters I have ever known. Needlepoint, cross-stitch, ceramics; there was nothing she couldn't do. At every family gathering she made handmade items for everyone, usually personalized. The year after Aunt Etta Jane died (EJ was famous for wearing a Christmas bow on the top of her head while we opened presents), Aunt Betty made tiny Christmas bow earrings for all the women.
Primarily, she was the most engaged person I have ever met. No one who encountered her didn't feel that Aunt Betty was genuinely interested in them and glad to see them. As my sister Barbara said, "Aunt Betty made everyone feel special."