338 - 4th Avenue North | Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 2L7
Obituary of Betty Lillian Wright
Our mother, Betty Wright, passed away on April 9, 2023, in Saskatoon.
Betty Lillian Dye was born in Regina on November 9, 1928. She would be the second and final child of Clarence and Gladys Dye. Clarence worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Though his salary wasn’t particularly high, it was steady work, which meant a lot in depression-era Regina. Mom would talk about the many unemployed men that would frequently show up at their door, offering their services for a meal. There was rarely anything around the house that needed to be done, but Gladys – the future Granny D - always made sure these men left well fed. To preserve their dignity, she would create a project for them to do, so they didn’t have to feel that they were accepting charity. Her mother’s acts of unconditional kindness would be imprinted on Mom for the rest of her life.
In the early 1940s the family moved to Saskatoon. This was a very fateful move, as Saskatoon was where she met the love of her life, Cliff, and where they would be married, raise a family, and contribute to the community that they both loved throughout their lives. We would remain in awe of their seventy-year devotion to each other.
Mom once confided, with a hint of embarrassment, that she had gone to a party as the date of somebody else but connected there with Cliff and ended up leaving with him. “What could I do? I knew immediately that Cliff was the one, and that was that!”
They married on May 19, 1951, and wasted little time in starting a family. Their first child was born in March 1952. Mom had lost her only sibling, Jack, who died in June 1944 serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so their first born was named after him. Jack was quickly joined by Don, Nancy, and Lorne.
It being the 1950s, most of the responsibility for creating a home that was filled with love, support and guidance fell to Mom. It was a role she excelled at.
Of the many gifts we are grateful for, perhaps the most significant was that Mom passed on her love of learning and reading to us. She would read to us every night before bedtime. While there were lots of evenings devoted to the delights of “Winnie the Pooh”, “The Wind in the Willows” and the like, she also read “serious stuff” such as “A Children’s History of the World.” One summer at the lake she read illustrated versions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. The other kids at the lake were somewhat mystified about why they were no longer playing cops and robbers, but Greeks and Trojans instead.
The house often looked more like a school than a conventional home. The walls were festooned with maps, lists of historical facts, diagrams of dynasties, wise quotes such as Thoreau’s “a different drummer,” and many other types of learning aids. One time Lorne was entertaining some friends and one of them used the bathroom. On the wall beside the toilet was a map of ancient empires. When he emerged, he said to Lorne, “You Wrights never get any downtime do you?”
There was one fly in the ointment of Mom’s lifelong love of learning. She had not graduated from university before getting married. She had started her studies after high school but both she and Dad were impatient to get on with “adult” life, so she dropped out before finishing the classes for her degree. It was something that bothered her during the infant-rearing years so, once Lorne was in school all day, she set about rectifying that. She took one class a year until she earned her B.A. Jack and Don attended the University of Saskatchewan at the same time as Mom.
As we started to move well into adulthood, she began to worry that we were tardy in getting married and having the grandchildren she and Dad were looking forward to. But it eventually happened. Mom and Dad welcomed Nancy, Lynne, and Mike into the family, and were thrilled to eventually have ten grandchildren – Duncan, Alix, Hilary, Lindsay, James, Garett, Michelle, Justine, Antony, and Marcia.
She was so excited when Duncan, their first grandchild, arrived that she called Denny Carr and Denny announced Duncan’s birth to all Saskatoon on his CFQC radio show. This was Duncan’s quick reaction to her passing: “Her dedication to teaching us the joys of life and skills, such as how to drive a standard car, forged a special bond that continued to grow as her grandchildren became adults and parents themselves. Her presence in the lives of her 17 great-grandchildren was a blessing for the entire family."
Jack took a little longer to find his perfect match, and so it was Mom who welcomed Victoria into the family. In her final years Mom also became close to a very special niece, Michelle Swoboda, and to Vesna Dusevic in the ever-expanding extended family.
While she showered love on her family, she seemed to have a boundless heart. As one of our partners put it in her final note to Mom: “Everyone you touched was blessed with your loving kindness, pure heart, and generous spirit. You made everyone feel special and number one to you.”
She maintained friendships over the decades – some lasting seventy years. The only event that would ever end a friendship would be the friend pre-deceasing her.
She genuinely liked everybody, looking beyond the imperfections that we all have and focusing instead on the good. A friend of ours said, “she always seemed to have more faith in me than I probably deserved.” That was the essence of Mom. Many more of our friends have shared with us how important Mom’s kindness to them was as they struggled with their own life challenges.
But it wasn’t just family members and friends that benefitted from Mom’s love. She never forgot what she had learned from Granny D, and found time and resources to help those who didn’t have the same luck in life that we had. For example, in her final years she provided support to Vincent Massey School so that it could help individual students deal with particular challenges that their families were not able to handle on their own.
She remained young at heart to the end. Grandson James’ hockey career was no doubt accelerated by the fact that Mom would strap on goalie equipment so that he could practice shooting down in their basement. She was always up for trying out the new and novel. At age 50 she became one of the first persons in Saskatoon to get a moped. She was amongst the first wave to take to personal computers and signed on early to the internet, early enough to snag the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mom’s devotion to Dad continued right to the end. She was determined that he be able to stay at home during his eight-year battle with cancer, and did everything necessary to make sure that was the case, allowing Dad to continue to enjoy life at home until just before he passed.
In her last week all four of us were blessed to be able to spend time in person with her to make sure she knew just how loved she was.
We have said from time-to-time, only partly tongue-in-cheek, that our successes in life are attributable to having chosen our parents brilliantly. We cannot believe our good luck, and will be forever grateful to Mom and Dad.
We extend our thanks to Dale Wallis and his team at Primrose for providing Mom with a caring community for so many years, Andrea Parenteau and her team at Golden Home Wellness who committed themselves fully to help Mom when she needed it, Myrna Varga and her crew at Keedwell who welcomed Mom with open arms and filled the final step of her journey with love and devotion, Greg Charyna and his crew at Home Instead who provided Mom and the family with increasing support as Mom’s time drew closer. Finally, a huge thanks to Mom’s doctor, Bill Haver, who always made Mom feel like a million bucks.
A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, 816 Spadina Crescent East, on Friday, April 21 at 2:00 pm, followed by a reception at the Saskatoon Club.
Dependable. Committed. Compassionate.
338 - 4th Avenue North
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7K 2L7
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