December 19, 1927 – November 26, 2018
Elizabeth (Bette) DeGraaf was born on December 19, 1927 in Long Beach, New York, to Garrit DeGraaf & Elizabeth Teichs. She grew up on Waterview Road in Island Park, New York, with her two younger siblings who predeceased her, Garrit Jr. and Joyce Ann. Although growing up as one of the original “Island Parkers,” her dad was born in Holland and his family traditions had a pronounced effect on her early years. In 1929, he built a float called the 'Pride of Rotterdam (his hometown) for a local Children’s Parade with 2 year old Bette dressed up as a little Dutch Girl next to her windmill and she wound up winning the second place silver trophy cup.
In the fall of 1946, as a Senior in Oceanside High School class of 1947, she met and started fancying Francis (Roy) Donnelly, a WWII Navy veteran from Long Beach who was learning to fly at the Island Park Seaplane base on the end of her street. On more than one occasion during school while she would be on the football field, Roy would literally fly by turning his plane sideways to buzz through the football goal posts to impress her. It worked as he wound up as her prom date in 1947 and after graduation, the couple were inseparable from one another moving forward. In 1949, she and her fiancé Roy bought a Studebaker as an early present for their pending wedding on September 24, 1950. They were wed at the Island Park United Methodist Church with a reception in Point Lookout at the Point View Inn. After honeymooning in Florida, they settled into a house in the West End of Long Beach where Bette worked as an operator for the local telephone company. In 1953, they moved into their home at 281 Madison Avenue in Harbor Isle (unincorporated hamlet on the west side of Island Park), on the same street as Roy’s brother and his family. It was here where she and Roy adopted Troy in 1965 and then Keith in 1966. They lived there until 2011 when they relocated to Houston to be near Troy, as Keith passed in 1998; a tragedy that she never truly got over. Her house was everything to her, and she spent countless years tending to her flowers and plants that she adored, as well as the numerous birds they attracted; in addition to sitting on her porch or in her bay windows for hours playing “Neighborhood Watch.”
Suffice to say, Bette loved to share life not only with her family, but also with many close and life-long friends through the years such as the Stapletons, Ravallis, Neamans, Hundleys, and Wrights to name a few. In addition, there was a friendship that started in the Korean Pavilion during the 1964 World’s Fair that brought Han Kookee into Bette’s life, as well as Kookee’s family and friends later Like her Mother Elizabeth, Bette loved to travel however the travels with her family were more focused mostly on driving to places in the Northeast to see and stay, such as Roy’s parents farm in Wyndham in the late 50s and 60s. Later in the 70s with her children, they would visit friends who were like family, such as Audrey and her god-daughter Beth in New Hampshire, or the Polkinghornes, as well as travel to California to visit Roy’s other brother and family, as her own brother and sister were already gone. As she and Roy got older, the fell in love with cruises going to numerous places on Norwegian Lines or the Big Red Boat such as Nova Scotia and Halifax. She also traveled to Europe while Troy was stationed there to visit her grandchildren as well as treks to Holland to see her Dad’s family.
On top of this there was the many years spent as one of the only Cub Scout Den Mothers (along with Arlene Senders) for the boys and their friends. There was also the very humorous side of her that came out during family gatherings or at the various clubs at the Island Park Methodist Church, as well as when joining her sons and their friends who loved to playfully tease her. This was best summed up by one of the boy’s friends, Glenn, who just this week said she was a really sweet woman who was fun to get a rise out of. He was referring to a time when her teenage boys knew she was snooping in their rooms, so they decided to plant fake marijuana cigarettes for her to find. She wound up calling her Pastor very concerned that her boys were doing “twisties.” Poor Pastor Bill could not understand what she meant by twisties, so she had to take them over to him to look at them for her. After a very quick inspection, he responded that she might want to scale back her snooping as the boys were acutely aware, since the twisties she found were only rolled up oregano. There was also the occasional word faux-pas due to a slight dyslexia that randomly occurred, such as telling her visiting sister-in-law from California how much she wanted to try that new hamburger restaurant, except the 2 syllable name Fuddruckers came out slightly different/turned around. She would sing songs to her German grandsons such as one-two buckle your shoe…..then add nine-ten Grandma is a big fat hen, just to see the boys laugh, as she always referenced Laughter is the Best Medicine, even if she made herself the punch line. Even after being diagnosed with Alzheimers, she would joke about it, and wound up telling Troy one day “you know, it SUCKS living in two worlds,” and then laughing as he sat there staring in disbelief that Mom said something sucks. She loved life and loved seeing people happy and smiling.
Bette is survived by her son Troy and daughter-in-law Karen; grandchildren Jenna/Dennis in Houston, Elaine(and husband Patrick)/Pascal(and wife Lena)/an extended Vanessa in Germany, Keith/Kevin in New York; in addition to great-grandchildren Jill/John/Zoe/Lilly in Germany and Jason/Talia in Houston.
Please consider making a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) in her memory.
December 5, 2018
So many wonderful memories of living around the corner from Aunt Betty's childhood home. Exploring with the DeGraafs. Life on the water. Wildlife, including ducks. The most AMAZING Christmas Trees I've ever seen.
The Seaplane base was a second home to my Dad and Uncle Roy. Dad actually met Mrs. DeGraff while working there in 1947. It was she who first introduced him to Aunt Betty.
Aunt Betty would want me to share that she was the one who introduced my parents. A story she never tired of telling. Always reminding us that none of us would be here without her.
Aunt Betty has always been a steady source of strength and love, and I'll miss her ready smile and infectious laugh.
There will be one huge Birthday Celebration in Heaven this month, as there was always a joint celebration of lifelong friends. Aunt Betty on the 19th, Dad on the 20th and Uncle Roy on December 28th. Somehow they managed to fit in the importance of celebrating December 25th too!
I am Blessed to have known her and Grateful to have called her Aunt.
I offer my sincere condolences, may you find Solace and Comfort in her memory...
May she Rest In Peace
December 3, 2018
I'm so sorry to hear about Bette's passing. She and Roy helped raise me and my sister, making sure we got on the bus to school in the morning and being at the house until our mom got home from work every day. She and Roy became third grandparents for us. We lost touch over the years, after I went away to college and me and my sister grew older. But we were able to see Better and Roy before they moved away from Island Park. I have many fond and warm memories of them both. My condolences to the family.
December 2, 2018
I have so many wonderful memories of 'Aunt' Betty and the rest of the family. From holidays at the 'Big House' and time shared on Qubec Road with Grandma DeGraff.
Betty had a great laugh and beautiful smile with a heart bigger than herself.
Aunt Betty, please give my Dad and Mom a hug from me in Heaven. Oh and don't forget a bottle of Scotch for Grandma! I will always keep you in my heart as part of my extended family.
In the love of Jesus,
Vanessa And Jill
December 2, 2018
I'm so glad that Jill was able to meet her great-grandma Betty in 2014, it was love at first sight on both sides. They had so much fun together and it still makes me smile how Jill tried to teach her some german nursery rhymes. We will keep you in our hearts Betty, I'm sure you are watching us from above.
December 2, 2018
So very sorry to learn of Betty’s passing. She was so proud to be the oldest member of Island Park United Methodist Church when we honored them years ago. My sincere condolences and prayers for your family.
John and Linda Farrell
December 2, 2018
I'm not sure if you remember me, I'm Bill Wolf's stepdaughter. I'm very sorry about the passing of your mom. Your family was always nice to me. I have many memories of Keith to be honest I had a slight crush on him.
December 1, 2018
What an amazing tribute to your Mom. She's at peace in a far better place, and probably looking down at all of these wonderful memories, just as I did.
Our love to you, and the rest of the family.
Nancy Lorraine Donnelly-Ng
December 1, 2018
A lifetime of memories, from family celebrations to the big family reunion on the beach so many years ago. Uncle Roy loved his trains, around the tree at Christmas and around the backyard set in Summer. I remember Aunt Bette babysitting for my siblings and me. In later years, I was the babysitter for Troy and Keith. After moving to New England, I made sure to not forget to include a visit to Aunt Bette on my trips back to NY. Memories that will last my lifetime. I love you, Aunt Bette, and you will always remain in my heart.
Patricia Stapleton Eblen-Platt
December 1, 2018
I am so saddened to hear of the loss of your beautiful Mother..
I was also heartbroken to learn of the passing of your wonderful Dad,
Uncle Roy and Aunt Betty
Both such sweethearts and lifelong extended family to us
Your Dad and Mom were real sources of strenghth to my Mom, Dad, myself and my brothers in dealing with all the difficulties of my Dad's alcoholism.
I'm glad to see you have children of your own, and I hope you are well and happy.
I also, unfortunately lost my youngest brother, Ed, to suicide 9 years ago.
I can truly understand how your Mom and your Dad would never get over that loss, and I'm sure the same is true for you as well.
I have many many fond an funny memories of your parents, I will always remember their smiles and can still hear their laughter.
My love and prayers to you and your family with this heartbreaking loss.
I and my parents have been so blessed to have had your parents in our lives.
God Bless You