I already miss you, Betty, just knowing that you were there and always so encouraging and excited about a project that any of your students were pursuing, even long after they were in your class.
I so enjoy the memories of "working in a group" to discuss Plato, Aristotle, Mills, and the thoughts, poetry, and ideas of so many authors. At first I thought the work of poets and authors was a multi-millennium conspiracy among philosophers and English teachers to make English students play "guess what I'm thinking", but it was later I realized those discussions, and writing and reading assignments were such important exercises in learning to listen and understand ideas of others, of people who had spent such energy thinking and pondering; and more importantly, to learn how to clearly communicate our own ideas to others.
You paid your students the ultimate compliment, always telling us through your actions "You have wonderful thoughts and ideas, and I want to know what they are. I want you to learn to write them and say them clearly." How many other adults in our lives at that time were so interested in our ideas and thoughts, that they would spend hours reading our first awkward and rudimentary attempts to write and express our thoughts? And then write careful notes on the papers (in red ink of course!) indicating that you had carefully read and attempted to understand what we were trying to say? Not many.
You inspired us all with your incessant enthusiasm in your value of others, especially those very young students who were just learning to write. I recall your classes with the young elementary students at Ramstein Elementary School who were writing books and learning to implement your "young author" writing program. After you talked to each child, he or she would emerge from the classroom beaming, invariably feeling that they were the most special and promising budding authors.
Your passion to DO things, SEE things, TALK ABOUT things, was so overflowing and contagious. You even named your car "Bubbly". I know you stated that this was because its color was 'champagne', but I believe the name reflected your nature. Anyone fortunate enough to travel with you or otherwise share an aesthetic experience, exciting city lights, shows and plays, a book, music, or a picture with you, always received much more in return through your exuberant response and the desire to "see it again!" or "do it again!".
Part of your enthusiasm and drive was manifested through wanting to make effective and powerful presentations. Your presentations were renowned around Europe and beyond. You also made the rest of us do the same. I remember coming over to Germany from the States to present a workshop and you helped me put together some "acetate slides" after you discovered that I came only with a written paper to be delivered. ("What do you mean you didn't include any visual aids?!") I would have been quite content to write some text on each one and hope for the best. However, I recall we were up till the early morning hours getting them copied and recrafted "just right" so that the presentation would be equally "just right" and effective. Well, it was, and I was asked back several times as a result!
Your respect and compassion for those who were disadvantaged in socioeconomic class, race, education, or otherwise deprived were so evident, and you inspired so many of us to pass that compassion and value of others on through the various individual paths we took and through the service we were to render in our own ways throughout our lives.
Many people drop a significant pebble in the pond with their lives, causing ripples to improve the lives of others in ever-widening circles. You dropped a boulder that produced wave after wave of generations of students and their students who would continue to practice, teach, and otherwise share the same compassion, service, and drive for excellence that you taught them.
Thank you, Betty. Thank you for your life, your love for all of us, and the value you taught us to place upon ourselves and others. I am the optimist that believes it could only be true that we will see you again after the short remaining years that comprise each of our brief mortal existences, and then continue where we left off.
When next I see you I have a piece of music I want you to listen to. And, Betty, would you be willing to read something I just wrote......
With gratitude and love,