White, Betty Eileen (nee Elliott), age 97, long time resident (68 years) of Prospect Avenue, Thunder Bay, passed away peacefully in Pioneer Ridge Nursing Home, Thunder Bay, on May 9, 2023.
Betty was born in Springford, Ontario, on October 29, 1925 to Lillian Maud Elliott (nee Freure) and Albert Edward Elliott. On that day, the feistiest of spirits also began a remarkable journey. Betty grew up in various communities in southern Ontario due to her father’s work as a Methodist/United Church minister, including Kintore, Exeter and Thamesville, the latter where she began high school. She was a quick study, with her mother (a teacher by training), having taught her to read and write at home. It was at Exeter that Betty also began to take piano lessons, which led to a lifelong passion for music. She regularly played the piano for her father’s church services, beginning as early as 12 years of age. Unfortunately, Betty’s father died in 1941 when she was 15, prompting the family’s move to Brantford, where she completed high school at age 16. As money was in short supply, she had to put her wish to advance her education on hold, and support herself. She completed a business course and took up work as a secretary and administrative assistant, all the while singing in choirs and playing piano. Betty moved to Calgary in 1951 and there met her future husband, John White (Jack). They married in Brantford in October, 1953 and, following a stint in Kitchener, moved to Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay) in 1954, when Jack’s employer transferred him there. They never left. Four sons were born from the mid 50’s to early 60’s.
As the sons grew up, Betty saw the opportunity to return to school to pursue her lifelong wish for, and belief in higher education, starting with 1-2 courses per year at Lakehead University, while raising the family. She attained a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1978, followed by an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 1981, and then culminating in a Master of Arts in Sociology in 1989. She then worked as a teacher’s assistant and taught as a sessional lecturer at Lakehead University throughout her 60s.
Betty’s passion for music never wavered. She was a frequent soprano soloist at numerous venues over the years, and sang for many years in the St. Paul’s United Church choir and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra Chorus. In 1974 she took a position as Organist and then Musical Director at Knox United Church (Shuniah), a position she held for 44 years, retiring at 92 years of age. Betty maintained volunteer roles with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and Royal Canadian College of Organists as well as others, for decades.
Betty’s family was central to her. She and Jack travelled extensively with them across Canada, and spent many summers at the family cottage on Lake Simcoe, near Barrie. Betty and Jack also travelled throughout North America and beyond. Particular effort was made to regularly interact with the extended family, whether at the cottage or elsewhere. They were avid participants/supporters of many community organizations including the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, Magnus Theatre and St. Paul’s Couples Club, later the Fellowship Club. Her feistiness and conscientious, principled commitment to all things she undertook, was evident to all who interacted with her.
Betty is survived by her 4 sons, David, Grande Prairie; Ian (Sharon), Toronto; Peter (Nancy), Thunder Bay; Paul (Beverley), Fredericton; as well as grandchildren, Makayla and Nevaeh; Sadie and Marina; Jessica; several step-grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, brother-in-law Ralph Manktelow and sister-in-law Sheila White. Betty was predeceased by her parents, her siblings Barbara Elliott, Alan Elliott (Liz), and Margaret Manktelow, her brother-in-law Alexander (Sandy) White and her husband Jack (2014).
A very special thank you to all of the staff at Pioneer Ridge, in particular on Plaza One, where Betty spent her final year. You are all saints for the work you do, and your tender and unwavering care of Betty is greatly appreciated.
A Celebration of Life will be held on Friday, June 16, 2023, at 2:00 p.m., at St. Paul’s United Church, 349 Waverley Street, Thunder Bay. Reception to follow in the church basement (Lunan Hall).
We welcome friends and loved ones to join the family in celebrating the wonderful life that Betty enjoyed for over 97 vibrant years.
In lieu of flowers, donations to the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul’s United Church or Harmony United Church, or to a charity of your choice, would be appreciated.
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