January 22, 1931, dawned clear and cold with only five inches of snow on the ground in Constantine, Michigan when Betty was born in the family farm’s parlor to Fred and Iva Hochstetler.
The Great Depression was in full swing when Betty was born. The Star-Spangled Banner was officially adopted as the national anthem, and the Empire State Building was completed that year. Between the dust bowl, devastating unemployment, and Japan beginning its offensive that would eventually bring World War II to the shores of the USA, Betty would know hardships that are unknown today.
She was expected to pull her weight on the family farm. She helped in the fields, driving the tractor, milking the cows, and whatever else was required to run a large farm.
Betty accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior at an early age. She became a member of the Methodist Church in Constantine and made a public declaration of baptism when she was a sophomore in high school. Betty became active in youth activities - memories include going to friends’ houses on Sunday evenings for fellowship. After moving to Vicksburg, she transferred her membership to the Vicksburg United Methodist Church. She was involved in the United Methodist Women, sang in the choir, volunteered as the bookkeeper, and served on many committees over the years. She was also heavily involved in the Vicksburg Band Parents Association.
She graduated as the Valedictorian from Constantine High School with the class of 1948. She continued her education by moving to South Bend, Indiana, to attend the South Bend College of Commerce. Upon graduation, she moved back to Michigan to work at Ingersoll in Kalamazoo. While raising her children, she was quite successful in selling Sarah Coventry Jewelry. She also worked at Triple S Plastics, National Water Lift, and the First United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo. Later, she served as the accountant for her husband’s (Don) heating and air conditioning business.
She married Donald L. Thomas on September 25, 1954, who preceded her in death on February 11, 1995.
Betty and Don purchased a home on Barton Lake in Vicksburg, and there they raised their three children. They also hosted many swim parties and were known for their July 4th celebrations, complete with fireworks. Betty said that age is simply a number, and she proved that by continuing to waterski until she was 70.
Nothing made Betty happier than being surrounded by her family. She spent hours decorating for the holidays. She enjoyed making candies, chocolates, cookies and cooking up fabulous meals. She also made a special birthday meal for each person - “whatever you want” - and she made it happen. Family get-togethers always included homemade ice cream made from the family recipe handed down over the generations.
Betty and Don loved to camp and traveled all over with their fifth-wheel. Trips to Texas and up the east coast were some of the wonderful memories they made together. Favorite memories were the weekend camping trips where their grandchildren sometimes joined them.
After Don passed away, Betty continued her travels with her niece and good friend, Marilyn Miller including a trip out west and Alaska. She also traveled with her son and daughter-in-law, Steve and Laura, to Israel. The highlight of the trip (after receiving her lost luggage!) was the opportunity to be rededicated in the Jordan River.
Betty was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 but didn’t let the diagnosis slow her down. She lived on her own until July 2020, when she decided to move to Park Village Pines Assisted Living in Kalamazoo.
Betty saw the evolution of technology, from manual typewriters to having a personal computer in her home. From party lines to cell phones - she kept up and was active on Facebook, email, and texting her family and circle of friends when covid kept family from visiting freely.
She contracted covid in early February, which developed into pneumonia. She spent a couple of weeks at Bronson Hospital and received excellent care there. Betty was transferred to Rose Arbor Hospice and passed away on Sunday morning, February 28, after spending
Saturday evening with her three children.
She leaves to cherish her memories, her children: Daniel (Lee) Thomas, Paw Paw, MI; Sharon (Daniel) Goldsmith, East Leroy, MI; and Steve (Laura) Thomas, Ocala, FL.
Her grandchildren include Christopher (Kristie) Thomas, Benjamin (Amber) Thomas, Eric (Clarissa) Goldsmith, Sara Goldsmith, Alex (Chrystal) Goldsmith, Ashley Goldsmith, Darrin Thomas, and Jenna (Matt) Whitworth.
Great-grandchildren include Isaac and Zachary Thomas, Henry, Maximus, Jacob, and Josephine Goldsmith, Evelyn Goldsmith, Owen Whitworth, and two more due very soon.
She has many nieces and nephews, cousins, and friends who she has loved throughout the years.
Preceding her in death, her husband Donald (Don), her brothers, Kenneth, Roscoe, and Donald, a sister, Doris, and her parents Frederick and Iva (Heckaman) Hochstetler.
A memorial service will be held at a later time. Donations may be made to the Vicksburg United Methodist Church building fund, Rose Arbor Hospice, or a charity of your choice.
The family wishes to thank all healthcare providers who worked tirelessly to ensure that our mom had the best care.
The family is being assisted by Avink Funeral Home & Cremation Society, 5975 Lovers Ln., Portage, MI 49002. (269)344-5600.