Betsy died on Monday, June 4th. She was on a diving expedition off the coast of Seychelles where she was researching the effects of climate change on the dwindling habitat of the elusive Aldabra tortoise when she was lost at sea.
Okay – not really, but she had asked for a captivating obituary, and how do you not oblige a person who has given so much to each of us? But the true story of her life was far more extraordinary than any tale we could possibly concoct…
Elizabeth Dorothea (Willson) Wyse, affectionately known as Betsy, was born on March 5, 1944, just as the crocus buds were emerging from the spring earth in West Point, NY, where her father served as a combat instructor at The Academy. She was the first of five children born to Everard and Dorothea (Martin) Willson, and although her earliest memories were set in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, most of her formative years were spent in East Windsor, CT, where she and her siblings grew up. She was an outstanding student, and an even better human being, as evidenced by the DAR Good Citizens Award she received in 1961. With aspirations of becoming a doctor, she set off to prestigious Tufts University (which she was quick to remind us was Harvard’s sister school) directly after high school.
Betsy learned from an early age the importance of family, and took her role within her family circle to heart. Due to circumstance, she put her own dreams aside and gave up a promising education to help care for her younger siblings back at home when she knew they needed her. This was a defining moment for her. It epitomized her self-sacrificing nature – for no price was too high when it came to family; this was (to borrow one of her many catch phrases) the modus operandi for Betsy throughout her life, as well as the legacy she leaves to those who were fortunate enough to have shared in her journey. She gave selflessly and freely, with no expectations for anything in return.
Married to the love of her life right out of college, Betsy enjoyed many good years of music, dancing and laughter. There were bonfires and drinks, jokes and good times, an occasional shower in the rain (shampoo and all) and oh, so much joy.
But Betsy’s greatest pleasure was her family. Her dedication to family was inspiring. She was the proud mother of eight children and grandmother to seventeen amazing grandchildren. And over the years she opened her home and heart to many a wayward child in need of a mother’s love. And love them she did. Betsy radiated a maternal love upon anyone blessed enough to come into her life. Unconditional love was both her gift from God and her greatest legacy.
No day was complete without at least a few check-in calls from Betsy.
How was your day?
Did you feed my grandkids yet?
How was that doctor’s appointment?
I had a great time at so-and-so’s game!
OR the infamous and sometimes painful, “Let me read this article that I came across in the JI to you.”
And she did. Every. Single. Word. Including, of course, a cadence of dramatic pauses and commentary.
It was not uncommon to check voicemail only to hear a disgruntled Betsy mumbling about the ineffectiveness of modern conveniences to the effect of, “Why even have a cell phone if you can never be reached??” along with a few minor curse words peppered in for good measure. It was truly endearing.
Uncannily, each call was impeccably timed to coincide with some uninterruptable event for the recipient (funeral, wedding, business meeting, etc.), sometimes inescapably leading to the dreaded, “Mom, I really can’t talk right now,” which she made clear was simply unacceptable. After all, what could be more important than connecting with family?
Betsy was a procurer of fine things. Along with her late sister, Eileen, she spent many weekend hours scouring local tag sales in search of the “perfect” item. Along the way, she acquired several lifetimes’ worth of odds and ends, as well as a plethora of finds thoughtfully and generously gifted to the family members that she thought could make the best use of them. The family was blessed with many of her second-hand treasures.
Betsy did not seem to understand the constraints of schedules – especially schedules of other people. After all, what could be more important than helping family? She was quick to issue the decree to any one of her children (or grandchildren, or neighbors – no one within the local area code was safe), whether it be shuttling her to and from Aldi to take advantage of weekly sales, mowing her lawn, taking her two beloved shih tzus for an afternoon walk, or even driving a kid or two to school so that she didn’t have to. As everyone knows, “working from home” means taking a day off, so what else could her family possibly have to do?
Betsy loved seeing the world. She loved people. And she loved life. She enjoyed traveling by train, where she could discover wonderful things through panoramic vistas. She was fascinated by life stories and other cultures. In her later years, she began to embrace air travel, which opened the door to new adventures for her. From North Carolina to Florida, and from Dublin to Madrid she was becoming a world traveler and she loved it.
Betsy was an avid reader and she loved Christmas. She loved New England with its rich history and changing seasons. She enjoyed annual family vacations with all of her children and grandchildren. She often quoted obscure poems. She created a family tradition of weekly Sunday dinner. She truly appreciated the beauty of everyday life, and refused to take one moment for granted. Above all, she loved her family.
Oh, and fast food. She really loved fast food.
Betsy is lovingly remembered by her children: Christopher (Doris) Wyse of Suffield, Elizabeth (Martin) Page of Suffield, Rita (James) Boucher of Rocky Mount, NC, David (Lisa) Wyse of Broad Brook, Jonathan (Michael Deotte) Wyse of Broad Brook, Melissa (Joseph) Walsh of East Granby, Angela Troughton-Wyse of Manchester, Jack Troughton-Wyse of Broad Brook; her sister, Rosemary (William) Raber; her brother-in-law, Donald Wagner; her sisters-in-law, Deborah Willson, Marsha (Michael) Balf, Marylou Wyse; and a special cousin, Heather Grace, of Florida.
She will also be sorely missed by her 17 grandchildren: Maureen, Mark, & Steven Wyse, Nicole, Taylor, & Matthew Page, Jack Boucher, Andrew, Jacob, Eric, & Kathryn Wyse, Noah & Colton Wyse, and Julia, Ava, John, & Kelsea Walsh.
Betsy was predeceased by her beloved husband, John; her parents, Everard and Dorothea Willson; her sister, Eileen Wagner; her brothers, Everard “Skip” Willson and Mark Willson; her brother-in-law, Arthur Wyse; and her sister-in-law, Pamela Willson.
Calling hours will be Thursday, June 7th, from 4 to 7pm at Bassinger & Dowd Funeral Home, 37 Gardner St, East Windsor, CT. There will be a prayer service with testimonials at 5:30pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday, June 8th, at 10am at St. Catherine Church in Broad Brook, CT. Burial will follow at St. Catherine Cemetery, in Broad Brook.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society. For online condolences please visit: www.pietrasfuneralhome.com
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