My mom’s kid sister was a pretty fantastic woman. “The grand dame of synchronized swimming in Bucks County,” the local newspaper said.
Aunt Betts was a terrific athlete who played four sports at Temple University and went on to help train Olympic athletes in synchronized swimming. Here’s a bit of her obituary from the local paper:
F. Elizabeth Hess of Fairless Hills passed away Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at Chandler Hall in Newtown after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 77.
… She was a graduate of Temple University, receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education.
Prior to her retirement, she taught Physical Education at Trenton High School for four years and Elementary Physical Education in the Pennsbury School District for 22 years. She was also the Aquatics Director for Pennsbury for 17 years.
Miss Hess was a nationally rated Judge for Synchronized Swimming and was involved with the training of Olympic Athletes for that sport. She was most proud of being the coach of the Pennsbury Falconettes Synchronized Swimming Team for 43 years.
She was a member of the Athletic Hall of Fame for both Temple University and Pennsbury, and had received many awards including her most prized, the Lillian MacKeller Award for Distinguished, Unselfish service to the athletes in the sport of Synchronized Swimming.
… She is survived by her best friend and companion of 43 years, Blanche M. Van Dalen. …
There’s a remarkable love story there, written between the lines.
The obituary mentions that she is survived by numerous “nieces and nephews.” It doesn’t mention that all of us — all 12 of us — received hand-made stuffed animals each Christmas from our Aunt Betts. Really cool hand-made stuffed animals. Bright red hippos with white boaters and neckties, bespectacled alligators, smiling white whales — one for each of us every Christmas. She must have been sewing all year.
I hope you’ve been lucky enough to have had an aunt like that, or a coach like that, or a “best friend and companion” like that.