Friday, July 24, 2015
12:00 PM EDT
Life Story Funeral Homes - Betzler
Paw Paw Location
60900 Michigan 40
Paw Paw, MI 49079
Lunch will be served after the service at the funeral home.
Friday, July 31, 2015
11:00 AM CDT
Chapel Hill Cemetery
Following the burial, food and fellowship will be shared with the family at the LaFarge Community Center.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Kalamazoo Gospel Mission
131 East Harkin Ct
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Westby Norsemen Scholarship Fund
PO Box 45
Westby, WI 54667
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
“I have upheld you since you were conceived, and have carried you since your birth. Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46: 3-4
Betty Jane Withrow and her twin brother, William James “Bill,” were born on August 19, 1923 to Catherine Blanche “Kate” Rice and William Elmer “Bid” Withrow. Their first home was located in a rural area of Vernon County, Wisconsin affectionately known as “Jug Creek.” Together with their older sister, Mary Paula, the twins spent their childhood years living in communities such as “Morning Star Ridge,” “LaFarge” and, finally, “Aumock Ridge.” This area of southwest Wisconsin, known today as the “Kickapoo Region,” is still regarded as one of the most beautiful and fertile hill and valley regions in the state.
Betty and Billy often reminisced about early memories they shared: carrying their lunch-pails to a one-room schoolhouse, being bundled under heavy blankets while their father, “Papa,” drove a team hitched to a sleigh, hosting “threshing crews” on the farm during harvest, and watching “Mama” scrub clothes by hand on a washboard. They spoke fondly of hours spent playing together on the farm, shooting sparrows and chipmunks with a .22 rifle, riding bareback across open fields and pulling pranks on one another. They also recalled a brief period of time in their lives when the family lived in town: the Kickapoo River flooded at historically high levels and they had to be rescued by boat from their LaFarge home. Without fail, when referring to their childhood, one or the other would sum things up by saying, “Those were the depression years. We didn’t have much back then.”
When Betty and Billy were only fourteen years old and entering high school, their lives were tragically altered by the death of their mother, who succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away on December 6, 1937. Mary was twenty-one by that time and lived in town, where she taught school. Her guidance, along with that of a few older ladies in the community, helped Betty assume the role of homemaker for her father and brother. “In those days,” she would say, “we baked every loaf of bread and preserved everything we grew. I heated water on the stove and scrubbed Papa and Billy’s overalls on a washboard.” Even after the twins graduated from high school and Betty began teachers’ training at Vernon County Normal School in Viroqua, she returned home on the weekend to care for the men on the farm.
It was at Vernon County Normal School that Betty met a young lady who would become like a sister to her. Bonita Hoff (later Bonita Jerman) would be referred to as “my dearest friend” whenever Betty introduced her. Betty and Bonnie served as bridesmaids in each others’ weddings and the women remained close throughout the years of raising families. Over the course of time, their children would grow up as cousins and call them “Aunt Betty” and “Aunt Bonnie” respectively.
At the end of her teacher’s training, Betty was hired to teach in a one-room rural school house on Salem Ridge near LaFarge/Ontario, Wisconsin. “It was a good situation for a beginning teacher,” she’d say proudly. “We had chemical toilets and a large basement for the children to play in.” Betty boarded with a family who lived near the school and no longer commuted back to the farm. Traveling between communities was not practical at that time because gasoline and rubber tires were being rationed to support America’s involvement in World War II. “To provide tires for Papa’s car, Billy had to buy them on the ‘black market’,” she told us. As recently as 2004 or 2005, Betty still had her WWII ration stamps and showed them to her grandchildren.
It was during the early war years that Betty was introduced to Floyd Ecklor. Floyd was from the Rockton, Wisconsin area, but worked in a submarine munitions plant in Manitowoc during the war. Their engagement photo was taken in front of the Withrow Farm on Aumock Road in the spring of 1944. At some point, Floyd also worked for a telegraph agency, because Betty often remarked that “Floyd was delivering telegrams the day the war ended.” They were married on June 16, 1945 at the LaFarge Methodist Episcopal Church. Betty continued to teach in Ontario until their first child, F. Eugene, was born on September 1, 1946. Patricia Kaye was born eighteen months later, on March 26, 1949. By that time, Betty and Floyd had moved to Westby, Wisconsin. Seven years later, the small family moved to a red-brick rental home in Coon Valley, Wisconsin, and Lawrence Lee was born on February 13, 1955. Photos from that year show the first black and white television the family ever owned. By 1961, Lawrence Lee was old enough to go to school, and in early spring of that year, Betty signed a contract to begin teaching for Westby Area School District the following fall. It was not to be, however, because shortly after signing the contract, another baby was discovered to be on the way. In the 1960’s, women didn’t teach once their pregnancy began to show, so Betty returned the contract to her employer. Lois Ann was born on December 9, 1961. Betty was offered a contract again the following year and she returned to full-time teaching when Lois was six months old.
For the next twenty-five years, Betty would teach for Westby Area Public Schools. The first years were spent at Newry School, a one-room rural school between Westby and Cashton. Later, she taught upper grades at Coon Valley Elementary School. During her Coon Valley years, she returned to LaCrosse State University (now UW-LaCrosse) and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in education. In the late 1970’s Betty moved into a Chapter I teaching position for the district, where she enjoyed providing remedial reading and pre-school services to the Coon Valley and Chaseburg communities. Betty had a natural ability for teaching and worked tirelessly to help her students learn and achieve. She retired in 1986, but continued to keep in contact with her teaching colleagues for the rest of her life.
In 1988, Betty purchased the first home of her own and moved to 2211 Horton Street in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. She proudly painted and renovated the house by herself, invested many hours in her yard, garden and flowers. She spent time in the company of a large group of ladies who traveled, went to plays and musicals and ate out together. Betty’s quick wit and her tendency to dish out good-natured teasing often made her the life of the party. She worked part-time in the evenings while she lived in LaCrosse, providing companionship and care for elderly women in their homes. Betty was an active grandparent during these years and she even found time to participate with the quilting circle at her church, Good Shepherd Lutheran.
In 2003, Betty was the guest of honor at party in celebration of her 80th birthday. Family members, including many of her grandchildren, participated in the program held at Goose Island Park in LaCrosse. A week later, Betty set off on a new adventure, moving all her belongings to a residence on ten acres near Schoolcraft, Michigan. Once again, she set about the task of decorating her new home, planting flower beds and growing a small garden. She continued to fill the role of grandmother after she moved to Michigan. She also attended Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church, and there she became friends with many dear ladies through Silver Friends Ministry.
Betty suffered a debilitating stroke on March 27th of this year and on April 27th she became a resident in the Hawthorn Memory Care Unit at White Oaks Assisted Living in Lawton. She died peacefully, with full assurance of eternal salvation through forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus Christ, and she held fast to the hope of a joyful reunion with her loved ones who claim God’s promises as well.
Betty is survived by her four children, F. Eugene (Susan) Ecklor of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Patricia (John) Gasper of Marion, Michigan, Lawrence (Nancy) Ecklor of Coon Valley, and Lois (David) Helland of Schoolcraft; fifteen grandchildren, David (Joy) Gasper, Darra (Leo) Flanagan, Danielle Hegemann, Michelle Ecklor, Nicholas (Jessica) Ecklor, Timothy Ecklor, Cindy (Chris) Stierman, Brian (Cortney) Ecklor, Jennifer Ecklor, Sarah (Jesse) Vian, Brad Ecklor, Daniel (Sabrina) Helland, Andrew (Amanda) Helland, Cassandra (Anas) Badawi, and Aaron Helland; fifteen great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. She was preceeded in death by her parents, Catherine and Elmer (Bid) Withrow; her husband, Floyd E. Ecklor; her sister, Mary (Lloyd) Steinmetz; her brother, Bill Withrow; a special aunt, Helen (Bill) Rochol; and a dear and loving friend, Mrs. Bonita (Clarence) Jerman.
Betty will be remembered for her tenacity, her sense of humor, her excellent cooking and (Norwegian) baking and her faith in God. She will be remembered as a teacher, mentor and friend. Most of all, she will be remembered for the unwavering love she held for her brother and sister, her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.
A memorial service to honor Betty’s life will be held at 12 noon on Friday, July 24, at the Life Story Funeral Home, Betzler & Thompson – Paw Paw; 60900 M-40 (657-3870), with visitation one hour prior to the service and a luncheon to follow at the funeral home. Betty’s eight fine grandsons will serve as pallbearers for their grandmother. Interment will take place at 11:00 AM on Friday, July 31 at the Chapel Hill Cemetery in LaFarge, with Pastor Gary Daines officiating. Guests are invited to share food and fellowship with Betty’s family following the interment at the LaFarge Community Center.
Betty’s family wishes to extend sincere gratitude to the staff and physicians at Bronson Hospital and Bronson Commons, the resident care assistants at White Oaks Assisted Living, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and friends from Lawton Evangelical Mennonite Church for their compassion and caring during her illness.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Kalamazoo Gospel Mission, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or the Westby Norse Scholarship Fund. Please visit Betty’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com to sign her guest book or share a memory or a favorite photo.