Last Thursday evening, April 24, 2014 Betty Axelsen passed away peacefully in Fort Collins, Colorado. She was 92 years old. With Betty was her only remaining child, Ken and her loving daughter-in-law, Sandie. Betty was a dutiful, loving wife and the Mother of another child, Deb…my wife of 40 years. Betty’s husband, Laverne passed away 27 years ago.
It is wonderful that Deb and her Mother are now reunited. I called Deb and her Mom “The Clones,” as they were similar in many ways. Both women looked alike; it was obvious to even the casual observer that they were Mother and Daughter. Both were fanatical about their hair; never allowing it to get even the slightest disheveled. Betty got her hair done once a week…every week for the 44 years I knew her. Deb didn’t like anyone messing with her hair. Our daughter, Tara once called Deb’s bangs the “sacred whispees” and that name stuck!
Betty and Laverne met at a skating rink in Savannah, Illinois. She wore a tight sweater and he took the bait! They were married at the outset of World War II. Laverne was captured by the Germans during the battle of the bulge. For several months Betty knew only that he was missing; to her elation she was finally notified that he had not been killed. When Laverne came back from the War, he and Betty purchased a modest home in Rockford, IL. He took a job with Commonwealth Edison, worked as a skilled technician and made a nice living. Betty worked in the school cafeteria.
Deb and I had only gone out on a couple of dates when her Mom and Dad came to visit her at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. Having no idea that they would be coming to visit, I bumped into them just briefly at the Student Union. Their first impression of me was that I was an incorrigible, over-confident smart-ass with an “afro” haircut and wire-rimmed glasses. They were right on all counts!
Because they were kind and optimistic and because their daughter loved me, they did what good people do, they prayed that I would somehow have potential!
Betty and Laverne had two kids; a boy and a girl. They went to PTA meetings, took their children to church every Sunday, paid their taxes, drove a Buick, went camping during family vacations, had family dinner every evening at the kitchen table, cried when John Kennedy died, sent their kids to college, and puffed up their chests just a little bit when Neil Armstrong put his foot on the surface of the moon. They were working class, God-fearing people who raised their children with high expectations. Neither Ken nor Deb ever let them down. Betty and Laverne lived; they were; the American dream!
Betty Welch Axelsen, my Mother, I love you and always will!