We are deeply sorry for your loss - the staff at DellaVecchia, Reilly, Smith & Boyd Funeral Home, Inc.
Betty Chandler passed away peacefully in her sleep on August 13 in the Seasons Hospice facility within Christiana Hospital in Newark, DE, one week after suffering a stroke in her apartment at the Jenner’s Pond retirement community in West Grove, PA. Having lived a very full and rich life, she was the last surviving member of her generation in her family, among her bridge group, and even of her Lonely Hearts Club during WWII. Happily, it ended as she wished, while she was still living independently, socially active, and able to enjoy her beloved flower garden, reading, conversation, and socializing over a meal with friends and family.
Betty was born on April 29, 1922 in Ringoes, NJ to James Stillwell Higgins and Edith Thomas Higgins, a farmer and schoolteacher respectively. She loved her childhood on the farm living with her parents, her brother Jim, and her Grandmother Thomas, where she spent most of her time outdoors and learned how to ride horses and drive a tractor.
After going to a one-room schoolhouse through 8th grade and skipping a couple of grades in the process, she went to high school in Flemington, NJ, where she decided to be a schoolteacher like her mother and graduated at age 16. To become a schoolteacher at the time, however, she not only needed a college degree, but also she needed to overcome a childhood stammer. Thus, her mother suggested Betty attend West Chester State Teachers College (now West Chester University), where Professor Elizabeth Tyson had established one of the first speech clinics in the U.S. in 1923. Her mother’s advice was good, as Miss Tyson helped Betty to overcome her stutter during her first year in college, and she graduated in 1942 to begin her elementary school teaching career in Hunterdon County, NJ.
While in college, she met her future husband Don at the First Presbyterian Church in West Chester. They eventually married in 1946 after he returned from WWII, settled in West Chester, and by the early 1950s, had two sons, G. Donald III (“Chip”), James (“Jim”) Jay, and a daughter, Lynne Elizabeth. Each of them in turn had two children of their own (Matt, Kelsey, Steven, Nicole, Sara, and Ali respectively), and thus far, two of the six grandchildren have had three great-grandchildren among them (Ben, Lia, and Jasper).
In addition to raising her children, Betty had a very busy life, both professionally and as a volunteer. Beginning in the mid-1950s, she resumed her teaching career in the West Chester School District, where she taught for the next couple of decades. When her first child went to college, she and Don also became Amway distributors, initially for the extra money, but they continued it for many years thereafter because of the friends they made and the success they had. Betty also gave back to each of her communities in various ways. For example, in the First Presbyterian Church of West Chester, where she was a member for over 70 years, she became one of the women leaders, and eventually, she was actively involved as well in a variety of leadership roles in the Donegal Presbytery as a whole. In West Chester, she also was involved in a range of community organizations and leadership roles over the years. Moreover, in the Jenner’s Pond retirement community where she lived for the last 21 years of her life, she was chair of the Landscape Committee for several years.
The latter role reflected her love of gardens and flowers, which she created in each of her homes, including on the balcony of her final apartment. She also loved reading, traveling, having a good meal, and socializing in almost any form. Indeed, Don affectionately would say that once she stopped stammering, she never stopped talking!
Most important of all to her was her love for her family. She provided unconditional love and support for every family member, and she would offer advice whether it was wanted or not, as she was strong, feisty, and opinionated. Even when we disagreed with one of those opinions, however, we all knew that it came from a place of love and good intentions.
The great tragedy of Betty’s life was the loss of her daughter Lynne to leukemia at the age of 36. What got her through that loss was her deep Christian faith and a fundamental optimism at the core of her personality that there is always a silver lining in any situation. In that case, the silver lining was the opportunity to become a second mother and to build wonderful relationships with the two young daughters that Lynne left behind. Sara and Ali would spend a good part of their summers with Betty and Don until they were through high school, and those summers had a huge impact on the women they became.
Betty lost Don as well in 2007, and in her last years, she would often remark that she was surprised to have lived so long, and that she kept asking God what purpose he had in keeping her on earth. The answer, some of us suggested, was to be a role model for the rest of us on how to live optimistically, how to age gracefully, and how to love deeply.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Betty’s honor would be welcomed by the following organizations:
By check to the First Presbyterian Church, 130 W. Miner St, West Chester PA 19382 or online at www.firstpreswc.com/give (choose Betty Chandler Memorial)
By check to the Landscape Stewardship Fund at Jenner’s Pond (mail to Janice Taylor, 214 Azalea, Jenner’s Pond, West Grove, PA 19490)
By check to the Scholarship Fund at Jenner’s Pond (mail to Lynn Friedman, 329 Greenbriar Lane, Jenner’s Pond, West Grove, PA 19490)
Services and Interment will be private.