|photo credit Elmhurst Press, publ 8 June 1965|
l-r Peggy, Alice, Mike, Donald, Betty, Paul, and Mary
January 1, 1960, the beginning of a new year and a new stage in the life of Betty Connery Hansen. The funeral with its attendant decisions was over, but the grief and shock had not yet lessened. Betty was now a widow with nine dependent children to care for. The youngest two were not even in school yet. However would she manage to provide for her family?
It was a time of “stay at home” moms and Betty hadn’t worked outside her home in over twenty years. She didn’t even drive! As Betty reviewed her options, she found much to be grateful for. About two years earlier she and Donald had looked at buying a larger house in a more residential area of Elmhurst. It was a serious consideration that they eventually decided against. Now Betty was very glad for that decision since their current house was ideally located for her children to attend their activities without the need to be driven. Another decision that they had made was to cash in the small life insurance policies they had purchased for the older children and use the proceeds to increase Donald’s insurance. What a wise choice that proved to be.
Family came to the rescue both emotionally and financially. Fortunately, the Connerys believed in helping when it was needed and not waiting until a will was read. Betty’s sister Kathleen whisked daughters Mary and Peggy (then in second and first grade respectively) off to Florida with her for the rest of the school year. While in Florida, the girls attended Rosarian Academy, a boarding school in West Palm Beach. Donna returned to Mount St Mary Academy for her final semester of high school. Tom, Paul, Suzy and Mike returned to school in Elmhurst and Betty was left to figure out the rest of her life.
Dealing with financial matters after Donald’s death, Betty was informed that Social Security would give her the maximum allowance for her family but that was the same amount that she would receive if she only had three children. In other words, every time one of the children turned 18, she needed to report it to Social Security but her monthly amount would not change until Peggy (#7) turned 18.
Adding to Betty’s pain that year, her mother-in-law Henrietta (Bockie) died in April, just four months after her son. Bockie had often come to stay and help with the children and some of the cooking.
As Betty started making plans for her future, she looked at her strengths and decided that being a mother to so many children would help her to be a good teacher. Since she had attended Mundelein College for a year, she could complete the education requirements for a teacher’s degree in less time. As a teacher, she would not need childcare because her school days would match up with those of her children. And so, it was decided.
In the fall of 1960 Betty enrolled in Elmhurst College and began her degree work. Evening classes were her route since Alice had just started Kindergarten and Donald was not yet in school. She also took home study classes through Loyola University in Chicago. This would lengthen the time that it took to get her degree, but it would not affect her determination to complete her plan.
In June of 1965, Betty graduated from Elmhurst College, having already secured a teaching position at Stella May Schwartz School where she had done her student teaching.
Betty loved teaching and truly enjoyed both her students and fellow teachers. She stayed at Stella May Schwartz for several years until her health forced her to move to a warmer climate. Florida was chosen because her sister Kathleen and brothers Tom and Jack had all relocated to Fort Lauderdale in their retirement.
In 1971, Betty and the children still living at home, Peggy, Alice, and Donald moved to Pompano Beach, Florida. The move was a major change for all of them as they left a five bedroom, two story house for a three bedroom condo on the second floor and also adjusted to a new climate.
Betty took a teaching position at a school in Pompano Beach and also taught religious education classes during the school year. Over the next several years Betty’s health continued to decline until she was forced to give up the condo and move to her daughter Peggy’s home.
Betty died on 24 October 1977 at the age of sixty having lived a full life of loving her family, her students and friends and above all God in whom she put her complete trust.
Betty’s legacy includes her nine children, 21 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren with one on the way and still counting. She taught all of us to be kind, loving, to act with honesty and integrity and to respect others. It is up to each of us to honor her memory by passing on her values to the younger generation.