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Madison - Betty Petrie Elsas died comfortably at Attic Angel on June 27, 2022, two months short of 103. This is what she had to say about her life.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan, on September 1, 1919, the fourth daughter and sixth child of Jeremiah Holloway and Edith Mae Galbraith Holloway. Shortly after the birth of their seventh child, Edith died, and Jeremiah moved us to Piqua, Ohio, the home of his mother. Because seven children, including the two-year-old toddler, me, and a baby, my sister, was more than my father could handle, all the children were placed in families or institutions except for the two oldest, who returned to Detroit with Jeremiah. I went to live with the Petries in Piqua, where I grew up. George and Amelia Petrie were in their 40s by the time I came, and their only biological child, a son, Frank, was already grown and in the Navy. I am the last of both families. My original family of Robert, Adderly, Myra, Edythe, Marshall, and Barbara June, as well as our parents, have predeceased me, as have my foster parents, the Petries, and their son, Frank.
I attended school in Piqua and graduated from Piqua Central High School in 1937. I was a very social person with many friends and many activities. I was one of the editors of the high school paper, the Piquonian, and its membership coordinator. I was inducted into The Quill and Scroll Society as a senior. The Petries didn’t have the resources to send me to college, but they did encourage my education. Together we scraped enough for two years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. I joined the Delta Gamma sorority there and stayed a Delta Gamma my entire life. Between stints of college, I worked as a secretary in different offices, work I enjoyed. When the war came, and partly due to the influence of my brother, Frank, I proudly enlisted in the United States Navy as a WAVE in 1943. I still have my uniforms and jaunty cap. I served for 3 1/2 years doing administrative work in the country’s capital, eventually earning the rank of Lieutenant. While in DC, family friends in Ohio arranged a blind date for me with Robert Elsas, a Captain in the Army, who was engaged in intelligence work. After a whirlwind courtship at record speed, we married on January 4, 1946, in Columbus, Ohio, celebrating with family and friends while on leave from our military duties.
After our honorable discharges, Bob, (I like to call him Bob while he liked to call me Betty Jane or Bets or BJ), enrolled at Harvard Business School for his MBA, so we lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While there, I also decided to further my education at Tufts University. We lived in Columbus, Ohio for a while during Bob’s early career, and I attended Ohio State briefly. Then the babies started coming as they did for everyone in my generation.
Diana Attias (Dan) was born in 1948, Deborah Elsas was born in 1949, Robert Junior was born in 1951, and Teresa Colella (Rick) was born in 1952. Exhausting but the most fun years of my life as I recall. Bob got his CPA, and we moved to LaGrange, Illinois, in 1952. That house was a work in progress for all 13 years we lived there, but it was also the perfect place for children to grow up. Our neighbors all had children, so there was always someone to play with for everyone. I had friends in LaGrange who I got together with for Monday Menders, where we chatted and mended and solved the world’s problems in our living rooms. I became active in Planned Parenthood and the League of Women Voters.
I have lived such a long life that I have accumulated many grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. They are David and Rachel Attias (Senio), Elise, Mariel, Brian, and Angela Colella, Nathaniel and William Elsas, Vadim, Roma, Robert, and Elisabeth Elsas, Myla and Emmie Senio, Jonah, Clara, and Derrick Lee, Juliana and Gabriella Elsas. My children are wonderful, and their children are wonderful, and their children’s children are also wonderful. I am lucky indeed.
In 1965 the family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, due to the relocation of American Breeders Service from Chicago to DeForest. We built a lovely home on the west side, where we lived happily until I moved to an apartment and then assisted living at Attic Angel. During my years in Madison, I was busy with Madison Opera, the Civic Music Association, the AAUW, University League, YWCA, and PLATO. I also enrolled in the University of Wisconsin School of Business to get my undergraduate degree in finance, graduating in 1971 along with thousands of others in Camp Randall football stadium. It made me very proud to get that degree, and I was determined to use it. I went for a real estate license and found beautiful homes for many house hunters in the area. I went further to get a broker’s license and was engaged in property management for many years. I finally called quits on work when I turned 75. After that, Bob and I took delightful trips to amazing places in the world, enjoying meeting people from all over and making friends with folks like us on the cruises and group tours. Bob died of prostate cancer at age 88 in 2004, and I still miss him. He was a nice person, and he could make me laugh.
I don’t want a funeral or service. If you want to give a memorial, please consider Planned Parenthood, the League of Women Voters, Attic Angel, or Agrace. Any cause of your choice would be nice.
My favorite poet was Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). She wrote:
The Heart Asks Pleasure First
The heart asks pleasure first.
And then, excuse from pain;
And then, those little anodynes
That deaden suffering.
And then, to go to sleep;
And then, if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor,
The liberty to die.
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