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Betty Ann Crutchfield Wheat

1932 - 2018 Obituary Condolences
Betty Ann Crutchfield Wheat

Tempe Betty Ann Crutchfield Wheat, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, wife, friend, teacher, business partner, volunteer and more, died at home with family on August 24, 2018. Born on March 15, 1932 in Tucson to Elizabeth and Wayne Crutchfield, Betty was the middle child between brothers Wayne and Alex. In her early years she was painfully shy, but once she found her voice the genie was out of the bottle for good.

In college Betty met fellow UA student, Jim Wheat. After their first date, she told her parents, "That is the nicest boy I've ever met." On December 27, 1953 they were married. It was the start of a long and trusting relationship that guided the next 63 years of their lives.

Betty, a third-generation female to graduate from an Arizona university, received her Bachelor's in Education from the University of Arizona. Like her parents, she was a gifted educator, teaching third graders until her own "classroom" started to arrive in the form of her five children.

Betty and Jim created a home where the door was always open and anyone who entered was warmly welcomed. It was a place that encouraged creativity, exploration, self-sufficiency and following one's passion. If a little girl's heart's desire was magnets rather than Barbie dolls, magnets would be waiting for her under the Christmas tree (wrapped in an empty Barbie box to liven things up.) Betty's daughter Katie adds, "Mom always made sure the family room cabinet was full of paper and art supplies. She never cared what horrible mess we made as long as we crammed everything back into the cabinet at the end of a day of creation. She never cared how dirty we got or what crawly things we collected in the coffee cans she saved for us."

Her son Kelly reflects, "She let her kids explore - art projects, White Mountain streams, tree forts, day camps - and make big messes and be on their own while they did. The freedom of that exploration gave to me a sense that anything could be tackled rather than thinking others were the experts… just wade in and figure out how things work and do not lose patience with the process even if years are required."

Her daughter Carol adds, "Mom was the family's keeper and creator of traditions. She said we had so many traditions because we were comfortable skipping or adapting them whenever we wanted. We had so many because Mom kept them: report card dinners, birthday dinners, picnics all over Arizona, trips to the cabin, margarita toasts, holiday extravaganzas. For her grandchildren, she added summer book store trips, midnight runs for the latest Harry Potter release and the Cookie Garden." Invitations to the annual Wheat Christmas dinner usually arrived last minute with a note from Betty saying, "Dinner will be at 6…or maybe 7:30."

Betty cared about making her community better. She led Brownie troops, organized the annual grade school carnival, and "adopted" families in need at Christmas time for which she required all hands on deck until she was satisfied that we had delivered our best. She loved good books, cooking, gardening, the family cabin in Pinetop, her son's wine, the family dogs, musicals, singing harmony, playing her ukulele, American history, and Arizona's beauty to name a few. Topping the list were her family and friends. Her son-in-law Eric reflects, "As I was watering in the garden this AM, it occurred to me how much your parents appreciated everything about their lives. They took nothing for granted and knew how to savor even everyday moments."

Betty's grandchildren offer these remembrances:

"Grammy, we share a lot in common. A bum knee or two, green eyes, round noses. Stubbornness that sometimes gets credit for steadfastness. An appreciation for strong, driven, independent women. A desire to take care of our loved ones, but rarely to baby them. I owe you many thanks for who I think I am today. Thanks for letting me and the other grandkids take self-paced hydro engineering classes in your sandbox. Thanks for millions of nutritious calories, and millions more in the form of Christmas cookies. Thanks for your wonderful children--my mom, aunties and uncle. The security, encouragement, and confidence our family gives to each other makes us all better, happier people, and we couldn't do it without you there to show us how. I miss you tons." Henry

"Grammy, I appreciate everything you've done not only for me and this family, but for your community. You're an industrious hard worker and you put sentiment into everything you do. Thank you for making five kids', eight grandkids', and one (so far) great grandkid's childhoods magical. You make the most mundane things fun and special, creating traditions as you go. You welcome new people into your home with the same excitement that you welcome friends you've known forever. There's a reason why your home has come to be known as 'the hub.' It's because of traditions you've kept alive for generations, and because of the warm light that is you." Tess

Betty Wheat's legacy will last generations. As a young mother, she rocked her children to sleep singing well-known children's poems that she put to melodies of her creation - a sweet start to life on earth. With passing years, her kids inherited her smile, her love of family, a sense of fairness, strong opinions and the belief that hard work and following one's passion could lead to a meaningful and happy life. Our cherished memories will carry us forward. May Betty, Jim and their daughter Liba be together again creating more of the same.

Contributions may be made to The Jim Wheat Scholarship Fund care of ANAFUND, the scholarship foundation of the Arizona Nursery Association, a 501c3 organization. Donations can be made in any amount and sent to:

Jim Wheat Scholarship Fund


1430 W Broadway Suite 110

Tempe, AZ 85282

The family will hold a celebration honoring the lives of Betty and Jim (who passed away five weeks before Betty) on Sunday, November 18 from 2pm - 5pm. Please rsvp to: [email protected]
Published in The Arizona Republic on Sept. 16, 2018
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