The Dechert Sisters Legacy – A Hometown Visit

In conjunction with the posts I wrote about my Mother, Helen Grace Dechert Danko, and her amazing Sisters; Kassie, Mabel, Betty and Mickey, some of my Cousins and I decided to venture to the Dechert Sisters hometown, Myerstown, PA and explore a few of the landmarks that played a big part in their lives, and ours.

https://www.myerstownpa.org/index.php

This trip was very much a walk down memory lane for us because Mickey and Kassie both remained in Myerstown, and there were many extended family gatherings either at one of their homes or the local American Legion were both Mickey and Kassie’s husbands were members and Mickey and Kassie helped out. 

PLUS, many of us Cousins spent extended time at Mickey’s home, so it was like a second home for us.

Those of us on this excursion were 2 of Helen’s Daughters, Myself and my Sister Pam; one of Mickey’s Daughters, Kathy; Mabel’s Daughter Sallie; and Betty’s Daughter Linda and her Daughter Lori, Betty’s Granddaughter.

The designated meeting spot was the Myerstown Playground were we all had many great adventures, particularly in the Summer hanging out at the pool, going to pool parties in the evening or Playground activities like arts and crafts during the day. This landmark was very much for us, the Cousins, because this was our hangout when we would be visiting Mickey’s house. For Kathy the playground held even more memories because Myerstown is also her hometown.

From the Playground we ventured to Mickey’s home, which was just a few blocks away. Driving down Maple Street was like a flashback to all the times we visited Mickey’s home. I could see the layout of the interior of the home and the smells of Mickey’s phenomenal cooking and baking wafting through the rooms. My heart was overflowing with excitement and love just driving by. Mickey welcomed everyone with a great big hug and kiss, and you instantly felt like you were at home, even though it wasn’t your home. 

Our next stop was one of legends. I had heard many a story from my older siblings about this Dechert Sister landmark, but it was no longer in use by the time I was old enough to appreciate it. So I was excited to see this spot who’s legendary stories danced through my head as a kid.

This spot of legend was the location of Kassie and her husband Krilly’s store with a small apartment above it. In addition to the stories my older Sisters Carolann and Georgene had told; Kathy, Sallie, Linda and Pam all had wonderful stories to tell of their time at Kassie and Krilly’s store, and the family picnics in the back yard.

They talked about being able to fill a bag with penny candy and pick a soda from the cooler, and how neat it was to be able to have that much freedom as a kid. Kassie and Krilly had no children of their own, so all their Nieces and Nephews filled that void, and to say they spoiled us all is an understatement.

En route to our next destination, we passed the house Mabel and her husband Lloyd lived with their 2 children David and Sallie. They were only in this house for a few years before moving to the Philadelphia area when Sallie was three years old, but as we passed Sallie noted little details about the house that she remembered, to include a smaller cottage style house in the backyard.

Which is still there, but I was unable to get a picture of because there was a Mennonite Woman outside hanging laundry and I didn’t think she would have appreciated that. We suspected she may be the one living in the smaller house out back, but that was just a guess.

One little tidbit to add here is the fact that this house was across the street from Smith Candies, a landmark in Myerstown that some how escaped me growing up. BUT, that’s probably because all the Aunts always had quite the stash of candy, which I now know why.

Before my Sister Pam and I headed home, we stopped by the retail store and it was a candy lover’s paradise. Every candy you could conceive of from the old days to today was available for your sweet tooth craving. You could purchase in bulk or just a small sampling. My Sister and I settled for a small sampling. Can’t do candy in bulk any more.

Next up on the agenda was the house the Dechert Sisters grew up in. I was excited to scout this one out because I do recall my Mother commenting when we would pass it while we were in town visiting, but I was a kid and it had no significance to me then. Now it most certainly did.

None of us that were on the trip had ever been in this house. I believe my 2 oldest Sisters Carolann and Georgene may be the only offspring that may have actually been in the house when our parents and grandparents actually still lived there. Even they were very young, but their memories painted a wonderful picture of what the inside was like.

“The home they lived in was a classic old German style red brick house that only had heat in the basement. It would seep up through the grates in the floor to the main floor of the house, leaving the second floor quite cold, especially in the winter. It would take multiple quilts just to keep warm.”

“One of my older Sisters has fond memories of coming downstairs from the cold bedroom into the warm farmhouse style kitchen with the smell of coffee and fresh baked goods in the oven.”

Below is the link to the full post about the Dechert Sisters Parents, which has more details about the Dechert Sisters family roots.

Based on it’s appearances now though, it’s present owners have not quite given it the love Sallie and David Dechert did. We suspect it may now be apartments, which can explain that.

We knew this was the right house though, because it was across the street from the Seminary which used to be the State Police Barracks which all the Sisters would mention when telling stories about the trauma they experienced when having to take the chamber bucket from the house to the outhouse while the Troopers were out doing their morning drills. They were all mortified by this act, and seeing how close the house is, it’s completely understandable.

Note, the house they grew up in did not have a bathroom, thus the chamber bucket.

State Police Barracks – back in the day

Another spot we could not miss was the Bahney House, a landmark in town that is still an active business. Back in the Sisters days it was a bar and restaurant that their Father frequented, and where Mickey honed her amazing cooking skills. The building has certainly gone through renovations, to include adding solar panels on the roof.

Bahney House – back in the day

Plus the building also houses a hair salon and laundry mat, but at it’s core, is still the bar and restaurant. It was still early in the day when we were there, so we didn’t venture inside, but seeing the outside and the care the owners have taken in the upkeep of the building was more than enough for us.

Another destination that was a must to stop by was the infamous American Legion where many major events were held. From birthday parties to wedding receptions, this was the go to place. From an early age I can remember hanging out in the Bingo Hall when one of the Uncles was calling the numbers, or celebrating with family at private parties. It’s too bad poor management closed the place down years ago; otherwise we most certainly would have gone in just to see if the inside had changed.

This was the side entrance to the Bingo Hall

We had one more stop before heading outside of town to our final destination, and that place of many sweet memories was Kassie and Krilly’s home in the Lynncrest development.

Kassie and Krilly loved to entertain, and once they got this house they could really put on a spread. Hosting a huge Summer cookout for the entire family and their annual Easter gathering at which they held an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids and had baskets made up for each Niece and Nephew. 

Kassie and Krilly’s home when they first moved in

Although there have been some changes made to the house, and the neighborhood is more developed than back in the “Old Days” it didn’t take away from the memories that came flooding through my mind when we pulled up in front of the house. 

From Myerstown we headed into Lebanon, a short 15-minute drive, to a little restaurant called The Gin Mill. This is the place all the Sisters would meet after they were all grown and married. This became their watering hole for their annual “Sister Beer.” As their children aged, many of them would join them on this excursion, to include myself at least once.

BUT, nothing beats the days when it was just the Sisters. As part of our journey this day I wanted to recreate the one photo we have of the Sisters sitting at the bar having their beverage. And although the interior of the building has been updated, it didn’t take away from the history we wanted so much to recreate.

The Dechert Sisters at The Gin Mill enjoying their “Sister Beer” –
Betty, Mabel, Mickey, Helen and Kassie
The Next Generation Recreation –
Kathy (Mickey’s Daughter), Sallie (Mabel’s Daughter), Mariann and Pam (Helen’s Daughters), Linda (Betty’s Daughter) and Lori (Betty’s Granddaughter)

The 6 of us spent close to 3 hours lingering over our lunch reminiscing and getting caught up. I can only imagine this was what it was like when the Sisters gathered at this very spot. We had the most wonderful time and hope to make just getting together a more regular thing, just like our Mom’s did. 

We’d love to one day track down the Merkey homestead which was the Dechert Sister’s Mother’s Farm. The actual barn was supposed to be moved to the PA German Heritage Center at Kutztown University, but we don’t know if or when this was done yet.

http://www2.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=228187

http://www2.readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=219580

We had hoped to find the Merkey home in Myerstown where their Grandfather had a bike shop, but based on the address we had the home is long gone and is a Senior Home now. 

At least the rest of the town was still like walking back in time. There’s something to be said for leaving things untouched for posterity.

Speaking of posterity, if you have not read all the posts on the Dechert Sisters, below is a link for my wrap up post that has links to their individual stories.

History transcribed for all the generations.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Photos from my personal collection

#WakingtheWoman

#MomMemoir

#TheDecehertSistersLegacy

#EndofanEra

#SallieandDavidDechert

#Kathryn”Kassie”AmandaDechertKrill

#MabelMaeDechertSwanger 

#HelenGraceDechertDanko

#Elizabeth“Betty”MaryDechertKoblentzKutz 

#Mildred“Mickey”AliceDechertBortz 

#Family

The Dechert Sisters Legacy – SUMMARY

Mickey, Betty, Helen, Mabel, Kassie

Individually each one these women were amazing in their own right.

Kathryn Amanda Dechert Krill
August 24, 1911 – January 10, 1998
A Rosie the Riveter and Small Business Owner

Mabel Mae Dechert Swanger 
October 24, 1912 – March 3, 2013
Pursued a Career as a Hairdresser in her 40’s

Helen Grace Dechert Danko
September 13, 1920 – April 10, 2015
Registered Nurse, ran the health services for students at DeSales University

Elizabeth “Betty” Mary Dechert Koblentz Kutz 
November 12, 1926 – July 11, 2011
Beauty Shop Owner

Mildred “Mickey” Alice Dechert Bortz 
March 23, 1928 – July 10, 2020
Home Health Care Provider, long before it was ever classified as a real occupation

As a group though, they were a force to be reckoned with. 

Mickey, Betty, Helen, Mabel, Kassie

All strong women forging their own paths at a time when that was not the protocol for women, they were certainly pioneers. BUT they didn’t see it that way. They never saw themselves as anything other than ordinary.

BUT ordinary they were not.

They were feminists before feminists were a thing, but they never came off as anything other than caring, loving women, who wanted nothing more than the best for every person they ever met, especially their family.

Family always came first, no matter what. 

Mickey, Kassie, Helen, Mabel, Betty

They loved completely, lived fully, and persevered through some of the toughest situations: divorce, loss of a spouse, loss of a child, health challenges, and financial difficulties. 

And lived through some of histories greatest events: The Great Depression, World War I and World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, President Kennedy’s Assassination, Watergate Scandal, Persian Gulf War, and the Terrorists Attacks on 911. 

Plus, endured ridicule for being poor, their heritage, their “duchy accent”, and their religion/faith. 

YET, they never flinched.

Kassie, Helen, Betty – front row; Mabel, Ralph (step-brother), Mickey – back row

Did they cry? Most definitely. No matter how resilient they were, they were human, with huge hearts that felt everything. 

Did they get angry? Sure, why wouldn’t they? Once again, they were human, and felt everything very deeply.

Did they retaliate? ABSOLUTELY NOT, it wasn’t in their nature. They wouldn’t stoop to the attackers level. That was not who they were.

They had each other’s back and were always there to support one another. They were all cut from the same cloth and they understood each other better than anyone else.

Regardless of what they may have been confronting, others always came first. A rarity no matter what era. Their empathy for their fellow man was greater than any struggle they may have been enduring.

Mickey, Betty Helen, Mabel, Kassie

Kassie, Mabel, Helen, Betty and Mickey, lived their lives by following the Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

They were the “Personification of Love and Kindness.”

Their every action was motivated by their deep, unadulterated love of family and their fellow man. At their core they knew nothing more.

The Dechert Sisters legacy of love left an indelible mark on the hearts of all who knew them. They may have achieved great things, but who they were at their core, what made their souls shine, is how they are remembered. 

“You have no idea what your legacy will be because your legacy is every life you touch.”Maya Angelou

Kassie & Mabel
Helen
Mickey & Betty

Their children and grandchildren cherish every memory they have and honor the beauty of their souls by trying to carry on their legacy.

Living up to these women’s example is a tough feat, but the amount of love that flows through this extended family is a true extension of the love these five beautiful women bestowed upon every one of them.

Family continues to be the priority for each of their children and grandchildren, and it’s obvious the circle of love will continue for generations to come.

Especially by keeping their astonishing stories alive.

Kassie with her nieces & nephews
Mabel with her children David & Sallie
Mabel’s grandchildren: Amanda, Kim, Stacie, Mike & Aria
Mabel’s great grandchildren: Huck, Evan, Jessica and great nephew Roy
Mabel’s granddaughter Stacie with her husband Micah and their son Django
Mabel’s granddaughter Kim and her daughter Mia
Helen with her children Carolann, Georgene, Pam, Fran, Mariann and Bill, grandchildren Dustin, Ethan, Dylan, Billy and Roy, and great grandchild Ian
Betty with her daughter Linda, granddaughters Lori and Jenn, and great grandchild Ashley
Mickey with children Judy, Kathy, Mike and Jim, her husband Forrest and sister Kassie
Mickey with her son’s Jim and Mike and their family’s, Joanne Jim’s wife, Valerie Mike’s wife and Mike’s children Kellan and Alex, and Jim’s daughter Jaimie
Mickey with her granddaughter Jenna and great granddaughter Merritt
The Dechert Sisters with their parents David & Sallie – where the Legacy of Love started

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2021. All rights reserved.

#WakingtheWoman
#MomMemoir
#DechertSisters
#KathrynAmandaDechertKrill
#MabelMaeDechertSwanger
#HelenGraceDechertDanko
#BettyDechertKoplentzKutz
#MickeyDechertBortz
#FamilyLegacy
#EndOfEra

The Dechert Sisters Legacy – Elizabeth “Betty” Mary Dechert Koblentz Kutz

November 12, 1926 – July 11, 2011

Betty Dechert was the 4th child born to Sallie and David Dechert and very much the baby of the family at least until her sister Mickey was born in 1928.

Her sister Helen was 6 when she was born, and Mabel and Kassie were 14 and 15 respectively. One would think the age gap would have impacted the relationship between all the sisters, but not with the Dechert Girls, they adored each other, and spending time together meant the world to them throughout their lives.

AND, they always had each other’s back.

Being teenagers, Mabel and Kassie helped care for both Betty and Mickey, but there was no resentment; this just helped tighten their bonds. Plus the older sisters were always keeping tabs on the younger ones.

Betty and Mickey

Like all the other Sisters, Betty was weaned into the ranks to help sell Sallie’s shoofly pies and homemade egg noodles. Sallie’s little side-hustle helped support the household, and she took her business very seriously, training each one of the girls from an early age. First with the baking/cooking and clean up process, then the actual door-to-door sales, traveling around town with the goods in a wagon.

Betty and Mickey became a tag team for the sales part, but Mickey often noted that Betty preferred to stay with the wagon instead of doing the actual sales transaction. 

Not sure if Betty’s reluctance to be the sales person was before or after the infamous “You dum ‘tings, I bet you broke every noodle in da box.” incident, but I could see why this incident might impact her reluctance to be any more involved than necessary

As the story goes, when Betty was 10, she fell down the steps that Sallie so carefully lined her boxes of noodles on to dry. During her fall, Betty some how was able to knock down every box. Needless to say, when Sallie discovered Betty at the foot of the steps with toppled boxes and broken noodles all around her, she was not pleased. Not only was the days work ruined, but it was also a loss of income, income the family needed.

Now, if Betty had been injured I’m quite sure Sallie’s reaction would have been different, but other then a few bruises, Betty was OK.

As a child, Betty was your typical kid, but by her teens it was obvious her spark was a little different than her sisters. All the Dechert Girls were beauties with a personality to match, but Betty was the glamorous one and turning into quite the charmer, especially with men. Her stunning red hair and hazel eyes did not go unnoticed. 

By the time she was 18, she was dating Bob Foreman, a tool and die maker for the Bethlehem Steel, extremely handsome and 5 years her senior. They had met at a dance and had an immediate connection. 

At the age of 19, Betty was a contestant in the Miss Lebanon Pageant. The local newspaper referred to Betty as “a titian haired beauty.” Which is evidence enough to confirm she was a standout in the beauty department.

For the talent portion of the pageant Betty sang accompanied by her sister Kassie on piano. Both Bob and her sister Mickey were in the audience cheering her on.

In the Spring of 1947, at the age of 20, Betty and Bob were married. On December 6, 1947 their daughter Linda was born.

Betty and Bob’s Wedding picture with her sister Mickey as Maid of Honor and her niece Carolann, Helen’s daughter, as flower girl

It was the events surrounding Linda’s birth that would impact Betty in ways no one can fathom unless they experience it themselves.

For all appearances, Betty’s pregnancy was a very normal one. That was until her sister Helen, who was a nurse, came to visit to check on her because she was a week past her due date.

Upon examining Betty, Helen was concerned that something wasn’t right and told Bob he had to get Betty to the hospital right away.

At the hospital the doctors discovered Betty was not only in labor and didn’t know it, but the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck and the baby was experiencing Meconium Aspiration Syndrome (MAS).

Both these issue in themselves are extremely dangerous, but combined they can be fatal. MAS occurs when stress, such as low oxygen, causes the baby to take forceful gasps, thus inhaling amniotic fluid containing meconium into their lungs. Even though fetuses do not eat, their intestines contain a sterile substance called meconium. Meconium aspirated into the lungs may block the newborn’s airways and cause regions of the lungs to collapse.

Getting the baby out was the priority, but the doctors knew it would be risky, not just for the baby, but for the mother too. They told Bob he may have to choose between his wife or his child.

An emergency C-section had to be done in order to save Linda because Betty’s hips would not loosen enough to have the baby naturally. Fortunately the doctors got Linda out just in time, but Betty was told she should not have any more children because she might not make it through another birth.

The doctor’s most certainly saved both Linda and Betty, but both of them always felt the real hero was Betty’s sister Helen, whose natural instincts as a nurse knew something was wrong. Had she not come to visit things most certainly may not have ended up they way they did.

It goes without saying this was a traumatic event, and one that would leave scars, even if they weren’t visible.

Betty was physically, mentally and emotionally drained from this event, and needed help caring for Linda. Fortunately Betty and Bob had already been living with Bob’s parents, so Bob’s mother stepped in to help, not just to care for Linda, but also help care for Betty who was put on 5 – 6 weeks of bed rest due to a swollen leg, also known as “milk leg” – a painful swelling of the leg caused by inflammation and clotting in the veins, affecting some postpartum women.

Finding out at the age of 21 you shouldn’t have any more children was a tough pill to swallow, so when Betty was back on her feet she threw herself into her work.

After high school Betty had gone to the Bryland Beauty School in Reading, graduating with a certificate in cosmetology and completing an apprenticeship at the Heffelfinger’s Beauty Shop in Lebanon. 

Falling back on this training Betty was able to secure a position with the Stuart Wood Salon in Lebanon. Because her mother-in-law was already caring for Linda, she had a built in babysitter, which enabled her to establish herself in the world of cosmetology.

This also gave Betty and Bob the money they needed to move out of his parents, first into an apartment and later purchasing a house, both in Lebanon, PA.

Even though they had their own place, it was decided it was best for Linda to stay with Bob’s mom during the week and spend weekends with Betty and Bob. This would keep some level of stability in Linda’s life, and allow Betty the opportunity to pursue her vision of owning her own beauty shop. 

By 1956, Betty and Bob had enclosed their porch and converted it to a beauty shop for Betty. Betty was in heaven, slowly building up clientele and creating a place where Linda could spend time with Betty even when Betty was working.

With cookies, coffee and adult conversations always available, Linda loved hanging out at Betty’s shop. She not only got to spend time with her Mom, but she also got to know all of Betty’s regulars.

Unfortunately Betty and Bob’s marriage started to have problems, there were obvious signs of abuse and by 1959 they were divorced. Their house was sold along with the shop and Betty temporarily moved in with Mickey and her family till she could get back on her feet.

This time with Mickey was a life saver because the troubles Betty faced in her marriage were very damaging to her psyche and having a sister always by her side was the comfort she needed to heal before stepping back out on her own.

It also gave Linda the opportunity to hang out with her Mom and Mickey and her family, who she adored. Needless to say the relationship between Betty and Linda was challenged enough, and with Linda heading into her teens, it was important she have the comfort of family around too.

Sometime in the early 60’s, Betty reestablished herself getting a small apartment of her own, and got involved with the Lebanon County Hairdressers and Cosmetologists Association, even becoming the secretary.

She also once again ventured forth into the world of beauty shop owner. This time though she rented space in Lebanon.

Betty would run Betty’s Beauty Shop until she retired in 1992 at the age of 66. Her shop became her refuge and her life. And although Linda continued to spend a lot of time at her Mom’s shop, by her teens she started to feel a little resentment. This could be expected considering all that had transpired, but it would put a strain on their relationship that wouldn’t show signs of healing until Linda was older and a mother herself.

Being very outgoing and friendly, Betty got very close to a lot of her clientele, some of who also became close friends. She would often go to events at the local synagogue and Jewish center with some of these women who were of the Jewish faith.

AND, in so doing, she would meet the love of her life, Isador Koblentz, better known as “Izzy.”

Izzy was a well-educated, well-dressed, well-mannered and very handsome gentleman, who treated Betty like she was the only woman on the face of the earth. They adored each other, and it showed in the joy on both of their faces.

Betty and Izzy

Betty was truly happy and her heart could once again feel love. BUT, due to Izzy’s mother’s objections because Betty was not Jewish, the two settled on dating for many years before they could consider marriage.

As long as Betty and Izzy were together it didn’t matter to them though. They had each other and that was enough. Betty was complete with Izzy, whether she was wearing a ring or not. They didn’t need a marriage license to prove their love. Their actions said it all.

They would often do romantic things like take trips to the Poconos where they would rent a cabin, take long walks and later warm themselves in front of the fireplace or just linger chatting on the patio taking in the beauty of the mountains. They also loved to share a bottle of wine with a gourmet meal, and could even be seen holding hands. They made the best of their situation and were very content.

Their day did come though and on Christmas Eve of 1971 Betty and Izzy were finally married. To say they experienced wedded bliss after all those years is an understatement.

By this time, Betty’s daughter Linda was 24, and married with 2 children, Lori, 6, born in 1965 and Lanny, 7, born in 1966.

Betty had discouraged Linda from marrying so young like she herself had done, and this only added to the friction between the two of them, but with Izzy in her life Betty began to lighten up.

Izzy had stepped into his role of stepfather whole-heartedly and was there for Linda whenever she needed fatherly advice. As a matter of fact he was more like a father than her real one and she referred to him as “Pop.”

The bond between Izzy and Linda truly helped heal the friction between Betty and Linda and by the time Linda’s third child Jenny was born in 1983, Betty had fully embraced being a grandmother.

Izzy’s presence in both Betty and Linda’s lives was what they both needed to heal old wounds and move forward. As the wounds healed, so did the amount of time together.

Holidays were always a big thing with Betty and Izzy, but now they could expand their celebrations to include Linda and her family. They would host a light meal after Christmas Eve Services followed by a big Christmas Day gathering at Linda’s house.

Things weren’t perfect, but they could finally really feel like a family again. The strains of the past were not gone, but things had mellowed with time.

This mellowing was very evident in the amount of time Linda would spend with Betty and Izzy. They both loved to take walks daily in South Hills Park near their home, and Linda would often meet them for lunch on her days off, even bringing Jen, her youngest daughter, who had gotten very close to Betty.

The strength of the healing bond between Betty and Linda was put to the test when Izzy was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years after Betty had retired in 1992. To say this was devastating news for both of them is understatement.

Izzy had become Betty’s rock and to see him knocked down by illness was a challenge she wasn’t prepared for. BUT, when you love someone as much she loved Izzy, you find that inner strength you need to persevere which is exactly what Betty did. She went from being the center of Izzy’s universe to caregiver.

In the beginning things went fairly well, but Izzy’s battle was a long drawn out one, and eventually Linda convinced Betty it was time for Izzy to be admitted to the V. A. Medical Center where he could get round the clock care.

This was a tough decision for Betty to make, but she wanted what was best for Izzy. As can be expected, Betty came every day to be with Izzy. Even if she just sat quietly by his side, he had the comfort of knowing she was there.

Linda, who had become a nurse, just like her Aunt Helen, also worked at the V.A. Medical Center so she would visit with Izzy and Betty every day on her lunch and after work.

Through it all though, Betty never really knew how bad things were until Izzy succumbed to the ravages of the cancer in October of 1996.

Izzy’s passing just about destroyed Betty. She was lost and lonely. How could she go on without Izzy?

All the troops rallied around Betty: Linda, her children Lori and Jen, and her new husband Pete, and of course all of Betty’s sisters stepped in to be there for her us much as they could.

In so doing though, Linda discovered how much Izzy had actually done around the house and she knew her Mom would never be able to handle it all. Especially in her state of grief, so she took charge of all she could while Betty got back on her feet.

Throughout the grieving process, Linda and Pete would take Betty out for drives, to dinner and to visit her sisters. Seeing her sisters helped a lot. It reminded her of the great times they had over the years.

Betty, Linda and Pete

And, by this time, Lori, Linda’s oldest daughter was married with 2 children, Ashley, born in 1995 and Dylan, born in 1998 and they would spend as much time as they could with Betty.

Linda, Jen holding Lori’s daughter Ashley, Lori and Betty – Four Generations of Women

Linda’s son Lanny was also married with children, Skye, born in 1994, and Kyle, born in 1997, but he was in the service and not available to visit as much as he would like.

Seeing the great grandchildren really helped Betty, but her loneliness was too much to bare some days, so with Linda’s urging, she decided to get out more on her own.

Lori, her daughter Ashley and Betty

On one of her adventures, she went to a local Burger King, and while there, an older gentleman approached and offered to buy her a cup of coffee. Not quite sure what to make of it, Betty declined, but after giving it some thought, she decided to go back to that Burger King to see if that gentleman would be there again.

Just so happened he was, and after that cup of coffee, the two started to date. That gentleman’s name was Jim Kutz, and much like Izzy, he was well-dressed, well-mannered and very handsome. He was however quite a few years older than Betty, but that didn’t matter to her, she was happy again and that’s all that matter.

It wasn’t long before Betty and Jim bought a home and soon after, in June of 1998 married. All seemed right in the world again for Betty. She had worked through her grief, and even though she continued to miss Izzy, she was able to find some happiness.

Betty and Jim
Betty, Jim, Jen and Linda

Unfortunately that happiness was short-lived. Jim had underlying health conditions and in October of 1998 died of complications from a massive heart attack.

Losing two husbands within two years was more than Betty could process. It destroyed her mentally and emotionally. Once again the family rallied around her all they could, but this time that wasn’t enough.

Linda quickly discovered Betty wasn’t paying bills and doing basic household chores. These all seem like a normal response to all Betty had endured, but because of her age and the trauma to her system, her doctor was concerned this behavior could be signs of Alzheimer’s. He recommended Linda attend a few meetings at Cornwall Manor, a nursing facility for Alzheimer’s patients.

Linda took the doctor’s advice and it was a blessing she did because it prepared her for what was to follow.

Over time Betty’s behavior became even more erratic, including wondering the streets at night in her nighty looking for Izzy. Wanting to keep Betty in her own home as long as possible, Linda brought in nursing care to keep tabs on Betty in the evenings.

Despite all the two of them had been through throughout the years, Linda could not turn her back on her Mom, she felt a deep obligation to her. Their roles had change. Linda was now the mother and Betty the daughter, and it was at this point that all the wounds of the past were permanently erased.

Taking on the role of caregiver for Betty only strengthened Linda’s love for her Mom.

In September of 2004 though, Linda could no longer make things work keeping Betty at home and had to make the difficult decision to admit her to Manor Care in Lebanon. Betty had developed blood clots in her legs and had to be admitted to the hospital for a week, so transitioning her into nursing care at this point was the best thing to do.

Betty battled Alzheimer’s for years. Sometimes knowing her family and other times not, but that didn’t stop them from having a birthday party for her every year, and visiting as often as they could.

Betty, Jen, Ashley and Dylan

Seeing the once bright light that was Betty slowly extinguish was the greatest heartache the family had to endure. And although the pain of losing her on July 11, 2011 was almost unbearable, they knew she was no longer suffering. They knew she was in a better place and whole again.

AND, they had their memories of the days when Betty’s light was shining bright. Memories that remind them of the truly beautiful soul Betty was, both inside and out. No disease could take those away.

Memories like the story of how Linda’s male classmates in high school were so enamored by Betty’s glamorous presence when she would come into school for parent/teacher conferences they would send notes home with Linda for her. As Linda noted, I was extremely popular on those days.

Or the twinkle in Betty’s eyes when she would great her niece Pam, Helen’s daughter, with “There’s my Scorpio Buddy.” They had birthdays one day a part, and this greeting always made Pam feel exclusive to be paired with her glamorous aunt.

Or the joy Betty would be beaming with when she was with her Sisters. The love the Dechert Girls had for each other was only matched by the love they had for their own families.

BUT, most of all, was Betty’s dazzling smile and sparkling eyes that would light up a room when she walked into it. No matter what challenges Betty was facing, she always had a smile on her face.

And it is that smile that will forever shine in all of our memories.

Please check back next month when I will feature Mildred “Mickey” Dechert Bortz, the fifth of the Dechert Girls.

Many thanks to my brother-in-law Terry Stout for his assistance with scanning all the photos for not only this post, but all posts on the Dechert Sisters.

© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.

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