Not quite the same without Miss Bette
By: Dick Hodgetts: Columnist
Mother’s Day is an emotional holiday. Florists report it is their best day, greeting cards are scanned by everyone, and long-distance calls to distant Moms test the phone system for the entire nation. If you haven’t done something for your Mom, you need to fix the situation. This event occurs the second Sunday every May.
We have a variety of views of our Moms. Yet, all Moms don’t fit the Hallmark Card profile. It is not surprising these days to hear a young Mother say with pride: “I want to be my children’s best friend, and they will always be able to tell me their issues.” Yeah, Right!
This year will be the first Mother’s Day without a well-known Madison Mom. We lost Miss Bette Copelan earlier this year. Her three daughters are adjusting to Mother’s Day without her, and we extend heartfelt condolences. To some extent, Miss Bette was somewhat of a Mom to a lot of Madison. She had been a widely admired resident of this village for years. The gracious and direct native of New Jersey met and married a US Navy pilot in World War II-a man who won awards for valor in the South Pacific.
Subsequently they established their home in his native Georgia. Bette was a teacher for well over 30 years. But, raising three daughters was her major priority. As much as they admire and respect their Mom, none of her daughters say: she was my best friend. But they do say a lot that is worth remembering: “Mom set expectations.” “Mom taught all of us how to prepare for success in a changing world.. “Mom taught us how to be independent and successful in whatever role we chose.” Bette did this by demonstrating skills that were carefully taught, but did not become burdensome. She was a great teacher-both in the classroom and at home. Her daughters learned to value education, and to understand that adapting would be a necessary skill. Mom was always stretching her own horizons and her daughters as well.
How did she do that? She was an active member of her Book Club and participated in many lively discussions with friends. She joined the Prime Timers at the Methodist Church and travelled to destinations with this delightful group. She worked at the Welcome Center and was an Ambassador of Goodwill to scores of Madison visitors.
Bette was thrown a curve in her late 50s when her husband passed very suddenly. She continued to teach for a time. But, just as she prepared her children to adapt to change, she demonstrated the same skills by creating a new business. She opened a sewing service with a focus on bridal gowns and christening garments. Was she good? Listen to this testimony from Anne Trulock: Miss Bette restored the wedding gown I borrowed and wore, which was the wedding gown my friend Cathy Hyatt wore, which was the wedding gown my Mother borrowed and wore, which was the wedding gown Eloyse Hyatt bought and wore for the first time. The gown saw four happy weddings, and was stored in between two generations in a hot attic; and was thrown out of the window of that attic during a house fire and was completely soaked by the firemen putting out that fire. It was a miracle that Miss Bette could make that gown back into a lovely wearable treasure---but, Cathy and I both have the pictures to show that Miss Bette could truly work a miracle!!
Later, she started a jewelry business that earned her recognition, and more financial security. To the end of her life she was participating in the future. There is new carpet in her Cedar Lakes home, bought and installed in the very last months.
Her funeral was a crowded event. Several Pastors did their best to lead a celebration of a full life well lived, and reminding us what a loss we were experiencing, yet recognizing that we all had seen a life of values, intellect, and grace. Some at that event remarked: “they don’t make ‘em like her anymore”.
A few days later, I was kayaking on Lake Oconee and neared a site where eagles were nesting. The Mother eagle let me know that I was in her territorial waters. As I backed my boat away, it was clear that she had some young eagles about to again try their wings. Soon with a lot of instruction, these young birds were soaring above the lake. Like Miss Bette, she had given them enough lessons to let them soar. The funeral and life of Miss Bette suddenly became more clearly understood.
That to me is what Mom’s do best: set expectations, give us enough instructions to allow us to leave, and yet; soar through life. Miss Bette is missed every day by family and friends; and yet, it is a delight to encounter one of her chicks and see how much they learned from a gracious but challenging Mom.
One bit of unsolicited advice: they prefer not to be referred to as “chicks”.