Betty Rothhouse ~ Died November 4, 2006   Leave a comment

On behalf of my sister Jodie and myself, I would like to thank you all for coming today to celebrate the life of our mother: Betty Lou Jacobs Rothhouse.  We would also like to thank you for the many, many kindnesses you have shown our family over the past few months and years.  Even though we no longer live here, Maplewood will always be our home because of all of you.

We are lucky to come from an extremely close family; my mother was the youngest of four children.  Her siblings doted on her and were her closest friends until the day she died.  Throughout my mother’s life, she relied on my aunts and uncles for love, support, friendship and advice.  My cousins too have been devoted to my mother. In particular, I would like to thank my cousin Jonny, who was our arms and legs in NYC for the past month.

As a very young girl my mother went to camp with her entire family – mother, brother and sisters.  At camp, she developed a knack for putting on plays and skits and writing poems and songs.  My mother came from a musical family and she played the piano and loved to sing.  My mother knew the words to every Cole Porter, Gershwin, and Rogers and Hart song and also knew countless Broadway tunes that she could recall with ease til the end of her life. She had an uncanny ability to recognize songs from just a few notes.  Rob says it was like she had a PhD in “Name that Tune.”

Sports were a passion for my mother.  In particular, she loved the Yankees since she grew up outside of Yankee stadium.  She told me that in the first game that she attended with her father she saw both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig play.  But, my mother was first and foremost a New Yorker and in 1969 I distinctly remember coming home from school and hearing my mother chanting “Let’s Go Mets.”

My mom was lucky to have found her soul mate in my dad, Byron.  Together they had a wonderful life and shared a love for traveling, tennis, dancing, politics, bridge and of course: family.  When my dad got sick my mother was a tireless care giver to him for 3 years.  She kept our family in tact and kept a sense of humor in our lives.

Betty was a remarkable woman.  In the 1950’s she worked as a civilian employee for the US government in Europe. She lived in Germany for two years and traveled extensively through out Europe.

Betty was a career woman long before that was in-Vogue. No surprise that she was a clothing buyer – as my mother had a flare for fashion and an eye for bargains.  A word here about bargains…my mother lived for a bargain.  She shopped at Loehman’s before they even had a back room and was still going to Canal Street to get knock off pocketbooks this past year.  She told me that when some of the Winchester ladies came to visit her in the hospital, she told them to go to there on the way home.  Jodie and I intend to carry on the Canal St. tradition.

My mother also taught us the concept of unit price in the supermarket.  She may not have completely understood “new math” but she sure knew how to calculate which can of peas was the best value.

Of course, we knew her as a mom…the coolest, hippest, best mom in the world.  Our house was the place where our friends congregated because they knew they would always find Betty in the kitchen and they could sit and talk to her and have a laugh.  My mother had a great sense of humor, she wasn’t a practical joker like my dad, she saw humor in many things and enjoyed laughing.

Several of you have commented how lucky Betty was to have such devoted children – and we thank you for that.  My mother used to say, “You get as good as you give.” Jodie and I have always felt that we were the lucky ones.

My mother was a phenomenal cook.  We grew up in a time where high cholesterol was not a particular threat. My mother made the best beef stroganoff, meatloaf, flank steak, borscht and of course pot roast.  In later years, she modified her cooking to adapt to a more healthy lifestyle and converted to turkey loaf and a variety of fish and chicken dishes.  She made cooking look easy and growing up dinner was always something we looked forward to – because it was always so good!

Betty was also an amazing seamstress.  She was tall and it was hard for her to find clothes that fit.  Lane Bryant was really the only specialty store back then. When we lived on Rynda Road my mom got a Singer sewing machine.  The first thing she made were “mother-daughter” dresses. She would never wear or let us wear anything that she thought looked like it was made by “loving hands at home.”  Consequently, she really became skilled at sewing.  In later years, she always knew what she wanted when she would go to a tailor and was a harsh critic if they didn’t get it right.

Anyone who has ever done the New York Times crossword puzzle knows how challenging it is – and it gets harder as the week progresses.  I occasionally try and finish the puzzle now, but can not get past Wednesday and invariably had to call my mother for an answer. Betty completed the NY Times crossword puzzle every day – including Sunday!

As many of you know, she was an excellent Bridge player with Masters points.  She would regularly tell me how much money she made in her weekly games.  $2.00 was a big pay day. But when it came to Black Jack her pay days were significantly higher.  Her proudest moment was winning a tournament in Tahoe, playing against dealers.  Her winnings paid for the vacation.  In recent years, Jodie and my mom enjoyed going to casinos together.

If you have been in my mother’s home, you know that she enjoyed needlepoint.  With the help of Estelle Owens, my mother needle-pointed many great works of art by Vlaminck, Monet, Redon, Chagall and Klimt.  These needle-pointed paintings are truly works of art and there is not one stitch out of place on any of them.

My mother was a decent tennis player and enjoyed the game.  Jesse told me a funny story about my mother on the tennis court.  She was playing doubles and Jesse’s brother Elliot was her partner.  Their opponents hit a high lob to Betty.  Elliot told her to “watch the bounce”.  And she did.  She never swung at it, but she sure got a good look at the bounce. My mother would have been the first to admit that she was not an athlete.  In fact, she bragged about the fact that she got her college gym credits by playing the piano for a dance class.

My mother was very involved in our schools and was the President of the PTA at Columbia High School.  She wanted us to get the best education we could in an environment that we would enjoy.  We both have fond memories of going to visit colleges with mom who graduated from New York University.  When we were looking at colleges, my mother confided to me that she had really wanted to go to Cornell. She enjoyed our trip to the campus but understood when I did not select Cornell as my first choice.

Both of my parents were involved in politics and we always had stimulating conversations around the dinner table about current events.  As many of you know, we were determined to get my mother an absentee ballot for the upcoming election as she would have been very disappointed if she could not have voted.

Growing up there were always beautiful flowers in our house. My mother loved flowers and was very skilled at arranging them.  She was visibly disappointed when she learned that she could not have fresh flowers in the hospital. Displaying her typical sense of humor, she told me on the way to the hospital not to stint on the flowers at her funeral. And, we didn’t.

Of all the things that I would like you to remember about my mother, being a grandmother is number one. Our daughter, Lindsay Byron was born on June 25, 2006. Betty was the first person we told when I got pregnant and the first person to come and visit Lindsay when she was born. There was never a minute when my mother wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of being a grandmother and then thrilled to be one.  My mother, like her mother before her, was the perfect grandmother.  100% love all the time.  Her pride at becoming a grandparent was so apparent. It made us all smile. When our daughter was born my mother came and stayed with us for 2 weeks.  She made so much food that it lasted a month.  Every time we would come to visit her it seemed that she was hosting another get together for people to meet Lindsay. We’re so glad we got to meet so many of you at mom’s soirees at Winchester.

My mother understood, perhaps better than we did, the severity of her diagnosis when she got it.  She agreed to undergo an experimental treatment for Jodie, me and especially for Lindsay.  That was the most selfless gift she ever gave us.

We all know that life is not fair.  Jodie and Rob and I know that Lindsay will know Betty and Byron through stories, pictures and memories from us and all of you. We are happy to transfer those memories and do so with love and affection.  But, we really wish we didn’t have to.

My mother was extremely secretive about her age. And, in fact did not want anyone to know how old she was.  I respect her wishes not to reveal her age, but would like you all to know that she looked damned good.

My mother believed in love and family. She did not know what to believe about
life after death. We like to think that if there is a life after death, my mother and father are together and have been reunited with their old friends and family and are eating good food, playing tennis and bridge and watching over us.

We love you mom and we miss you already.

Posted March 17, 2011 by Julie Rothhouse

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