Betty I. Price

Honored by:Mary Jones
Brick location:F:10  map

Betty Irene Price was born on May 12 1926 to William and Josephine Gump. She was the oldest of three -- two girls and a boy. She grew up in Mason City Iowa where her father worked at the Northwestern States Portland Cement Plant and her mother worked at Woolworth's.

She once said that she always wanted to be a teacher but there was little money in those days for the education of three children. What little there was was saved for educating the son. That was how the world worked.

She did get a chance to go to nursing school though and she traveled away from home for the first time to Sioux City Iowa. Her letters home are those of a naive and hopeful young woman. It was a time of war the second war to end all wars. Her world grew larger and she moved on to a nursing career in Chicago. Her stories of that time were filled with excitement and glitter. Then her father became ill with tuberculosis and she came home to Mason City. At a New Year's party to welcome 1952 she met a handsome former Air Force navigator James Robert Price.

She left Iowa to work in California at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital. Pediatrics was always her favorite duty. After a year in California she returned home marrying Jim in 1954. Shortly afterwards they bought the house across the street from her childhood home. Over the next ten years she bore three daughters; she lost two other children to miscarriage. One of Jim and Betty’s biggest dreams was that their children would all attend college -- something they had both yearned for and were both denied in their own youth.

Jim worked many hours away from his family as a conductor on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad. Betty stayed home to raise the children. She packed lunches ran the household and was home to dry every tear and cheer on every victory. When she did work as a nurse she did everything she could so her children would not be home alone. She worked nights at a nursing home; she worked summer shifts at the packing plant infirmary.

Cancer entered her life as a small lump on her breast. Her oldest child was in seventh grade. The surgery was radical disfiguring and traumatic. She fought against the ravages of the disease because of her love for life; she battled for her own life because of her love of her family. Then after nearly five years of healing and hope the cancer entered her lungs.

The surgeries and the treatments became a blur. She did not bend; she did not show her despair. Instead she reached out to comfort her family and friends who saw their time with her slipping away. She was ironing in the basement when her oldest daughter came from school after waiting for the results of one of the endless series of tests. As Betty told her that the news was not good they both began to cry. Her daughter said "Oh Mom I'm so sorry." Betty held her close and said "No I'm sorry... for the things you will have to face."

Betty remained resolute. She clung to life active in the church strong in her faith. If she wavered if she felt fear she never let her children see. She tried to prepare each one for her passing. Before one of the last surgeries she calmly showed her oldest now a sophomore at the area community college the dress she wanted to be buried in. When they were alone she told her stories of her youth of her nursing years in Chicago. By design or by chance she was saying "Remember these stories someday your younger sisters will want to know these things."

Betty tried every treatment determined that she would live to see her children grow up. She never learned to drive but if Jim was working she would walk to the hospital for her appointments. We found out later that on the way home she always stopped at the church. The parish priests admitted that many times it was they who found comfort in her words rather than she in theirs.

While the dread of the disease hung over us all Betty would not allow cancer and its setbacks to rule her family's lives. She wanted her children to continue with the normalcy that other kids enjoyed. We laughed exchanging gossip. She wanted to hear about school about dates about dreams.

She dealt with her own mortality with quiet dignity. It was not that she did not think of death or of the struggle she endured by fighting against it. Before one surgery she remarked that it would be so easy to just go to sleep under the anesthetic and to not wake up. But she was never one to take the easy way out.

Her faith remained unshakable. When people said they would pray for a miracle she quietly replied that perhaps it would be better to pray for strength. That way we all could face whatever was to come both the good and the bad. She believed that God answered all prayers... but sometimes the answer was no.

The cancer finally spread like wildfire, even morphine could not block the pain. During her final stay at the hospital, the cancer caused her to have the symptoms of a stroke. She passed in and out of consciousness, holding our hands. After a week of this, she finally surrendered to the disease. She left the family and friends she had loved and flew homeward. Her oldest child was 20; her youngest 10.

The day of the funeral, the church was filled to capacity, a celebration and a tribute to all of the lives she had touched.

It is said that heroism comes from the most ordinary of people who are called to the most extraordinary of tasks. Heroes rise above the selfish and the self involved; they inspire others to carry on the cause.

It was carrying on the cause of family and friends that Betty most desired. When her oldest wavered about finally returning to college after her death, one of Betty's friends came forward. "Your mother made me promise that I would see to it that you did not give up on your education. You will go back to school. You will make your mother proud."

I am that oldest child; and I knew even before hearing her friend's words how deeply my mother believed in her children. When I was cleaning out some of her dresser drawers after she died, I found a secret little cache that told me how deeply she cared. I wrote a lot in those days-- poems and stories from a young girl's heart. I used to throw a lot of them away, dismissing my own limited talents. There , hidden in a drawer, rescued from the trash and carefully smothered out, were my discarded writings. Even when her children were tempted to give up on their dreams, my mother always continued to believe.

I went back to college, and graduated, Phi Beta Kappa, from Iowa State University. When I looked in the mirror on graduation day, I saw my mother's eyes looking back at me. My promise to her had been kept.

One by one, through my father's best efforts, each of us kept the promise. Two of us graduated from Iowa State University; one graduated from the University of Iowa. This year, 1995, will mark the 20th year of her passing. Her daughters have all married. Betty has a grandchild now, too. And at each celebration, we all look to each other and know she is there with us- the woman who gave us life and carried dreams for us all.

She did not go to college; she lived in the same town most of her life; she yearned for more, but found comfort in the thought that life is what you make of it. As she faced each day with kindness, humor and courage, she taught her friends and family that each day is a gift to be held close, so that even the smallest delights can be savored.

Life's lessons are not all found in a classroom. Through her great love, that young whoman who once dreamed of becoming a teacher, became one without even knowing it.

This remembreance of her strength, and courage is presented by her husband, Jim, and her daughters: Mary Jones, Susan Fritz, and Joellen Rumley.