Thelma Melsnes Betchart passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday, April 5, 2014. She was 101 years old.
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Born Dec. 8, 1912, in Tacoma, Wash., she was the third child to parents Bernhard "Ben" and Minna Carolina "Minnie" (Anderson) Melsnes, who met in this country after emigrating independently from Scandinavia and becoming U.S. citizens.
She lived in Tacoma for her first 21 years, attended Stadium High School ('31) and graduated from the College of Puget Sound in 1935. She subsequently spent a year in New York City and received her MBA in retailing from New York University in 1936.
She worked for 18 months at the Emporium department store in San Francisco. With the challenges of the Great Depression and aging parents who needed her assistance, she returned to Tacoma, where she and a close friend opened a garden shop called the Garden Nook.
Coincidentally, similar circumstances and the military draft brought Art Betchart back to Tacoma at about the same time. They had known each other casually at CPS years earlier and became reacquainted through mutual friends. World events accelerated their romance, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, they were married on Dec. 20, 1941. Thelma lived with her aging father and her sister, Edna, and cared for her infant son, Bill, while Art was overseas in 1943-44.
Thelma devoted her life to nurturing her family. She was an excellent cook, a fastidious housekeeper and a wonderful listener. She made friends easily, and maintained lifelong friendships through dedicated correspondence. She enjoyed and made time for cards, swimming and gardening.
Art's career led them from their Puget Sound roots to Kellogg, Idaho; Metaline Falls, Wash.; Newcastle, New Brunswick; and Denver. In 1959, they settled in Evergreen, where they lived for 34 years. After Art retired, they traveled extensively together and, in later years, made their home in St. Augustine, Fla., to be near their daughter.
A woman of profound faith, Thelma was an active member of Church of the Hills in Evergreen, where she served as church school superintendent, president of the Woman's Association and coordinator of the annual fruitcake baking fund-raiser. She transferred her membership to Shores Methodist Church in St. Augustine in 1995. She was a superb example of patience and grace throughout her life, but especially as aging took its toll on her physical abilities.
Thelma is survived by her three loving children and their spouses: Will B. and Margaret Betchart of Cupertino, Calif.; Ann K. and Robert Sullivan of St. Augustine, Fla.; and Frank A. and Nancy Betchart of Concord, N.H. She is also survived by five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by Art in 2004, as well as her sister, Edna, and her brother, Harold.
There are no immediate plans for services. It had been Thelma's and Art's wish to return to their Puget Sound roots and be interred together in the Mountain View Cemetery in Tacoma. A service will be held at the graveside later this year.
Published in Canyon Courier from Apr. 23 to Apr. 29, 2014