Elisabeth "Betty" Claire Lahti
8/6/1927 - 8/12/2023
PALM CITY, FL
Elisabeth "Betty" Claire Lahti passed away peacefully on August 12, 2023. Born on August 6, 1927, in Olean, NY, she leaves behind a legacy that will forever be cherished by her family, friends, and community.
Betty spent her early years in Nanking, China, where her parents, John Theron Illick & Bernice Loie Illick, were Methodist missionaries and professors at Nanking University. Betty and her two older brothers, Rowland and Paul, attended The Hillcrest American School. In 1936, political instability in China forced the family to move back to Syracuse, NY where Betty graduated from Nottingham Highschool in 1945. She also was a devoted Girl Scout and rose to the level of Mariner Scout. She earned her BA at Syracuse University, majoring in sociology, with minors in philosophy and psychology.
Betty married Lee Stryker in 1952, which her father, Theron, performed the ceremony. Soon after she moved to San Antonio, TX and then to Kalamazoo, MI where she began a lifelong pursuit in working as a social worker and volunteer for many organizations and important causes. She played an integral part in establishing Planned Parenthood of Kalamazoo and worked for ten years as a Friend of the Court for the Kalamazoo Probate Court, helping many families and children in need. She also was invited by the Governor to join the State of Michigan's Crime and Delinquency Board, serving for four years, all while also raising her own three young children and a constant ever-changing menagerie of pets.
Betty loved to travel and was avid collector, filling her home with mementos from around the world. She particularly loved her trips to Russia, Japan, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Turkey, and of course her beloved China-the country and culture that left an enduring impact on her even until her last days.
Betty was a woman of many passions. She was an activist and philanthropist nearly all her life and always an avid reader of literature and poetry. She was a lover of classical music, art (especially Chinese art) and nature, a sophisticated cook, and a devotee of gardens, interior design, and architecture. She was a long-time devoted member and volunteer at the Palm City Presbyterian Church, where she even attended Sunday service on her 96th birthday, just six days before she died.
Later in life Betty married and spent 23 years with Charles "Chuck" Lahti, the true love of her life. They spent many summers at their beloved cottage that the two of them built themselves in Pentwater, MI, and in 1984 they moved to Palm City, FL and together they would become very involved with the local community. Over and over Betty and Chuck gave significant financial support and their personal time to many local organizations such as the Library Foundation of Martin County, Habitat for Humanity, AAUW Scholarships for Women, the Lyric Theater, Indiantown Boys and Girls Club, House of Hope and Save the Chimps. The Elisabeth Lahti Library of Indiantown, FL was named in her honor in 2006. Betty particularly loved to financially support local music concerts to ensure that they would be affordable for everyone. Betty's last charitable gift was funding to support the free concert series at the Palm City Library that begins in January of 2024.
Betty is survived by her three children, Ronda Stryker (Bill Johnston), Pat Stryker and Jon Stryker (Slobodan Randjelovic), her two stepchildren, Steve Lahti, and Sue Lahti, along with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband Charles Lahti in 2002 and her Stepdaughter, Jill Lahti (Vince Kidd) in 2012.
A private family service will be held in Michigan. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to one of Betty's favorite nonprofits mentioned above.
Betty's favorite quote that guided her life was: "Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves", by James M Barrie, author of Peter Pan.
Published by Kalamazoo Gazette from Sep. 11 to Sep. 12, 2023.