Elizabeth “Betty” Smith, known to most as Gramy, passed away peacefully on November 28. She was born in Eddyville, Nebraska on May 29, 1927, the fourth child of eight to Reuben and Catherine Clouse. She was raised in a Catholic home, two blocks from St. Patrick’s Church. Her mother took care of alter cloths and flowers for as long as she could remember.
As a young girl, she loved books, especially history. She saved everything that could be put into a scrapbook. Betty went into nursing school in Grand Island, Nebraska and, like most of her generation, was passionate about God and country, having survived several wars and the Great Depression. In 1948, Betty was ready as a registered nurse and a member of the Cadet Nurses to do her part to protect America. She came to Alaska in 1950 and took a nursing position at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Fairbanks. As God would have it, Art Smith ended up in her care after a plane crash. Upon his release from the hospital, he showed up at her boarding home to invite her to breakfast. History was made. They were married on November 10 that same year. They spent their summers at Fielding and Summit Lakes and built their first home in Big Delta where all five kids were raised.
Between 1966 and 1971, Betty lost her father, youngest brother, and her husband. She was left with five teenagers, ages 14-19. It was an incredibly difficult time and we, as a family, pulled together. After years of caring for us, the nursing profession had changed. Betty found work in food service. Her children remember her recovering from a broken leg, another setback, but she never complained. She found her strength in her deep-seated faith. She always had her rosary and prayer book and kept us all in good hands.
Betty was most passionate about preserving history. She was involved in many organizations like the American Heart Association, Ladies Community Club, Farmer’s Co-op, Delta Homemakers, American Nursing Associations, Alaska Aeronautical Historical Society, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and others. One of her biggest accomplishments was helping raise $330,000 to install restrooms at the Tanana Valley fairgrounds.
Betty was preceded in death by her husband, Arthur Everette Smith, her parents, in-laws Ora and Edith Smith, siblings and spouses Mary Louise Clouse, Frances (Clarence) Weides, Rose (Lloyd) Stauffer, Bob (Hy) Clouse, James Clouse, and Joe Meyers.
Surviving family: Sister Theresa Meyers, brother Thomas Clouse and his wife Barbara, and sister-in-law, Shirley Clouse. Multiple nieces and nephews. Children Pamela (Dennis) Bickford, Deborah Jo Anne Smith, William Jude (Sherry) Smith, Rose (Al) Edgren, and Patricia White. Grandchildren, Fred (Katie) Bickford, Adriane (Eric) Weatherby, Gwynne (JonWayne) Lindsey, Amy Bickford, Justin (Jen) Smith, Jared (Jaden) Smith, Arthur Edgren, Coleen (Shane) Fett, Jacob (Ana) White, Jessica (Eric) Washington, and Cody (Laura) White plus 17 great-grandchildren and one to arrive in June.
Mass services will be held at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church on Saturday, January 2, 2021, at 11 a.m. Graveside services will be in the spring when Betty will be laid to rest on Birch Hill with her husband Art.
Betty’s Pinochle opponents will remember cringing when she’d ask, “And trump is … ?” May we all smile, knowing she smiled. Win or lose, she loved to play.