Elizabeth Kenney

2 entries
  • "I am sorry to hear of Bette's passing. I enjoyed hearing..."
    - Kathy Frothingham
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WAKEFIELD - Elizabeth "Bettie" Dale Kenney passed away on Dec. 12, 2013, at Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro after a long illness.

Born at St. Margaret's Hospital in Boston on Feb. 12, 1927, Bettie was two months shy of her 87th birthday. Bettie was the wife of John "Jack" Kenney, originally from Concord, Mass., and the daughter of Richard T. Dale of Lexington, W.Va., and Miriam Sexton Dale of Hudson, Mass. She studied music at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, training to become an opera singer. She was a professional singer of popular music for 15 years, performing throughout New England, New York, Florida and Montreal under the stage name "Diana Dare." Bettie met her future husband of 47 years, Jack Kenney, at one of her singing engagements in Boston.

Bettie often said she "lived two lives, one before marriage and one after," and in recent years said "I have lived a wonderful full life, and I have no regrets." She was gifted with a beautiful voice at a young age and began singing with her mother, who played piano alongside her at home. As a young teenager, she entertained returning World War II veterans in and around the Boston area. She worked for the well-known talent agent Abe Ford in Boston for several years, then branched out on her own. She was booked on the Ed Sullivan Show in New York in the late 1940s and performed onstage with the leading performers of the day, including Nat King Cole, Frankie Laine and the Tommy Dorsey Band.

Bettie was known by many in show business in her era as the female singer with the most powerful voice on the East Coast. She was friends with Frankie Fontaine, Wladek (Walter) "Killer" Kowalski, Jimmie Durante, Morton Downey (a.k.a. the Irish Nightingale), Jackie Gleason, and Sammy Davis Sr.

Bettie retreated from "the golden era of show business," got married on July 28, 1952, and settled down, having a family of five kids with her husband, Jack. The kids grew up hearing her show business stories over the years. Jack and Bettie moved to Wakefield in 1965 to raise their five kids. Together they opened a restaurant called "Bettie's Restaurant" in Wakefield from 1970 to 1975 and operated a restaurant and auction barn in Rochester, prior to that. In later years, Jack and Bettie worked and travelled to regional flea markets and northeastern trade shows. Bettie was an avid antique and doll collector and absolutely "adored people." She loved plants and enjoyed playing bingo in her remaining days at the Wolfeboro Bay Rehabilitation Center in Wolfeboro.

Bettie was a board member of Northern Carroll County Mental Health for many years, and was also a member of the Union Post 7663 Ladies Auxiliary and worked with the local Wakefield Police Department with a teenage program for several years. She was a New Hampshire state legislator, and took pride in the fact that she was born on President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, her favorite President. She volunteered her time as a Saint Anthony's Parish Helper in Wakefield. A devout Catholic, she loved her family very much.

Surviving family members include a brother, John "Jack" Dale of New Bedford, Mass., VA Medical Center; three sons, John T. Kenney Jr. of Rochester; David X. Kenney of Miami Beach, Fla., and Joseph D. Kenney, Wakefield; a daughter, Elizabeth "Lisa" A. Kenney, Tamworth; daughters-in-law Sandra Kenney and Asha Kenney; five grandchildren, John, Mark, Sarah, Christian and Caroline Kenney; and two great-grandchildren, Jake and Jack; in addition to dozens of nieces and nephews.

Predeceased were her husband, John T. Kenney Sr., and daughter Miriam V. Kenney; her sisters, Nancy Owens of Mendon, Mass., and Virginia Meyers of Lynnfield, Mass.; and brother David Dale of Long Beach, Calif.; and her close uncle, Monsignor John S. Sexton of Boston.

The Kenney family has requested that any donations in honor of their mother be made to the Union VFW Post 7663, P.O. Box 201, Union, 03887, or Northern Human Services, 70 Bay Street, Wolfeboro, 03894, in lieu of flowers.

At the request of the family, there will be no visiting hours. There will be a memorial service Mass in the New Year to celebrate Bettie's life with a graveside funeral scheduled afterwards in the spring.

Published in Union Leader on Dec. 15, 2013
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