×

Hoffmeister Colonial Mortuary

6464 Chippewa Street, St. Louis, MO

OBITUARY

Elizabeth "Bette" Houska

January 28, 1926June 13, 2020
Play Tribute Movie

Elizabeth L. "Bette" Houska (nee' McCann) fortified with the Sacraments of Holy Mother Church, passed away peacefully on Saturday, June 13, 2020 at the age of 94.

Bette was the loving wife of the late Joseph Houska; devoted mother of Joe (the late Judy Gruber) (Chris Paige) Houska, Mary (Michael) Sommerville, John (Gwen) Houska, Jim (Diane Zoellner) Houska, Pat (Terry) Wilke, Cathy (Craig) Snavely, Tom (Vicki) Houska, Robert (Kathy) Houska, Larry Houska, Francene (Lou) Mertens, Michael (Tina) Houska, Rick (Lisa) Houska, and the late Barbara Houska; cherished grandmother of David (Katie Easterbrook) and Aaron (Kate Adamski) Houska, Becky (Tony) Zangara, Michael (Patty) Sommerville, John M. (Kaycee Eckhardt) Houska, Sarah (Wes Steele) Amad, Heather (Dae Woo Son) Houska Son, Scott (Emily Sarmiento) Houska, the late Kevin A. Houska, Kelly (Grant) Spencer, Tom (Jessica) Wilke, David Wilke, Danny Wilke, Lisa (Brandon Singleton) Wilke, Jimmy Houska, Nick (Adina) Houska, Zach (Jessica) Houska, Jacob (Anna Minicky)Houska, Ian (Molly Engel) Houska, Michael Houska, Brandon Houska, Robert (Annie) Houska, Chris (Kelsie) Houska, Casey (Kevin Gaffey) Houska, Joey Houska, Matthew (Christina) Shekell, Philip (Brooke Simon) Shekell, Gregory (Melaney) Shekell, Samantha (Sean) Connors, and Heather (Jason) Garrett; dear great-grandmother of Anthony Zangara, Lauren Zangara, Jonathan Zangara, Gabriella Zangara, Michael T. Sommerville, Madison Sommerville, Union Houska, Ava Amad, Frederick Amad, Keva Houska Son, Cleo Houska Son, Kenzie Spencer, Kevin Spencer, Josie Spencer, Jack Wilke, Harper Wilke, Aubrey Houska, Sailor Houska, Cabanie Houska, Matthew N. Shekell, Jr., Elena Shekell, Benjamin Shekell, Logan Garrett, Gus Garrett, and Annabelle Garrett; beloved aunt and great-aunt, dear friend of many classmates from the Notre Dame High School Class of 1944, a great neighbor and friend to many in her lifetime, loved and admired by all who knew her.

Bette was the 10th of 11 children born to Arthur and Monica (nee' Coveyou) McCann. She was introduced to the love of her life, Joe Houska, by her brother Jack, who desperately tried to keep them apart because of the five year age difference. But Bette was persistent and wrote to Joe unceasingly while he was away in the Navy during World War II. By the time the war was over and Joe was home for good, Bette was a stunningly beautiful 18 year old blonde, and Joe was madly in love with her.

Bette and Joe had 13 children, 12 of whom survive her. She was the epitome of patience, love, and humor, and a role model not only for her kids, but for her nieces and nephews who always looked forward to seeing her and having a great conversation. Bette had a mind filled with memories and details about people, places, and events, and her mind was sharp until the end.

Bette was always very close to her siblings and family reunions were special times. She grieved as all of them and their spouses passed before her. She remained faithful to God for His many blessings, and cherished her time here on earth. She looked forward to being reunited with Joe and all who had gone before her.

Visitation will be Wednesday, June 17 from 5-8pm at Hoffmeister Colonial Mortuary 6464 Chippewa 63109. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, June 18th, 9:45 at Assumption-Mattese Catholic Church 4725 Mattis Road 63128. Private burial at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in memory of her daughter, Barbara, are greatly appreciated.

Please leave a favorite memory of Bette for her family to cherish at the "Add a Memory" link below.

  • FAMILY

  • Arthur Augustus McCann, Father (deceased)
  • Monica Agnes Coveyou McCann, Mother (deceased)
  • Joseph John Houska, Husband (deceased)
  • Joseph Houska (Chris Paige), Son
  • Mary Sommerville (Michael), Daughter
  • John Houska (Gwen), Son
  • Barbara Houska, Daughter (deceased)
  • James Houska, Son
  • Patricia Wilke (Terrence), Daughter
  • Catherine Snavely (Craig), Daughter
  • Thomas Houska (Victoria), Son
  • Robert Houska (Kathleen), Son
  • Lawrence Houska, Son
  • Francene Mertens (Lou), Daughter
  • Michaell Houska (Tina), Son
  • Richard Houska (Lisa), Son
  • David Houska (Katie Easterbrook), Grandson
  • Aaron Houska (Kate Adamski), Grandson
  • Rebecca Zangara (Anthony), Granddaughter
  • Michael Sommerville (Patricia), Grandson
  • John M Houska (Kaycee Eckhardt), Grandson
  • Sarah Amad (Wes Steele), Granddaughter
  • Heather Houska Son (Dae Woo Son), Granddaughter
  • Scott Houska (Emily Sarmiento), Grandson
  • Kevin A. Houska, Grandson (deceased)
  • Kelly Spencer (Grant), Granddaughter
  • Thomas Wilke (Jessica), Grandson
  • David Wilke, Grandson
  • Daniel Wilke, Grandson
  • Lisa Wilke (Brandon Singleton), Granddaughter
  • James Houska, Grandson
  • Nicholas Houska (Adina), Grandson
  • Zachary Houska (Jessica), Grandson
  • Jacob Houska (Anna Minicky), Grandson
  • Ian Houska (Molly Engel), Grandson
  • Michael Houska, Grandson
  • Brandon Houska, Grandson
  • Robert Houska (Annie), Grandson
  • Christopher Houska (Kelsie), Grandson
  • Casey Houska (Kevin Gaffey), Granddaughter
  • Joseph Houska, Grandson
  • Matthew Shekell (Christina), Grandson
  • Philip Shekell (Brooke Simon), Grandson
  • Gergory Shekell (Melaney), Grandson
  • Samantha Connors (Sean), Granddaughter
  • Heather Garrett (Jason), Granddaughter
  • Anthony Zangara, Great Grandson
  • Lauren Zangara, Great Granddaughter
  • Jonathan Zangara, Great Grandson
  • Gabriella Zangara, Great Granddaughter
  • Michael T. Sommerville, Great Grandson
  • Union Houska, Great Grandchild
  • Ava Amad, Great Granddaughter
  • Frederick Amad, Great Grandson
  • Keva Houska, Great Granddaughter
  • Cleo Houska, Great Granddaughter
  • Kenzie Spencer, Great Granddaughter
  • Kevin Spencer, Great Grandson
  • Josie Spencer, Great Granddaughter
  • Jack Wilke, Great Grandson
  • Harper Wilke, Great Granddaughter
  • Aubrey Houska, Great Granddaughter
  • Sailor Houska, Great Granddaughter
  • Cabanie Houska, Great Granddaughter
  • Matthew N. Shekell, Jr., Great Grandson
  • Elena Shekell, Great Granddaughter
  • Benjamin Shekell, Great Granddaughter
  • Logan Garrett, Great Grandson
  • Gus Garrett, Great Grandson
  • Annabelle Garrett, Great Granddaughter
  • PALLBEARERS

  • Aaron Houska
  • David Wilke
  • Michael Sommerville
  • Scott Houska
  • Tom Wilke
  • Jimmy Houska
  • Zach Houska
  • Robert Houska
  • Matthew Shekell

Services

  • Visitation

    Wednesday, June 17, 2020

  • Mass of Christian Burial

    Thursday, June 18, 2020

Memories

Elizabeth "Bette" Houska

have a memory or condolence to add?

ADD A MEMORY
Ellen Nix

June 15, 2020

To All My Houska Cousins,
I was sorry to hear that Bette died. She lived a long and blessed life but it stills hurts to lose your mom. She could always tell some good stories at the family reunions and I don't think I ever saw her without a smile on her face. I'll be keeping her and you in my prayers.
Ellen

FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY
FROM THE FAMILY

Biography

Eulogy for Elizabeth L. Houska
Mass of Christian Burial
Assumption Church
June 18, 2020

Good Morning and welcome to this Mass of Christian Burial for Elizabeth Houska.

I am Joe Houska, Bette’s son. My siblings have asked me to share some Words of Remembrance.

I asked family members for stories to share. As you would think, I received stories that capture the many sides of a wonderful woman and an inspiring life.
Let me start with an extended story about Mom from Mom.

Many of you are grandchildren and great-grandchildren and only know Mom as an fully mature or elderly woman. But she was also once a beautiful teenager who attracted lots of attention from young men. She had many dates and kept a record of her social life with notes on the quality of the young men and the dates.

But she set her eyes on one of them, our Father, from early on. She was only fourteen when, from the back seat, she first saw him filling her brother’s (our Uncle Jack’s) gas tank at the station where Dad worked. But he was four years older and a war was about to start so other young men remained in the picture.
Dad left for the Navy in 1942 and was far home for almost four years. But the bond between Mom and Dad was so strong that letters, a three-day pass in 1943, and a weekend visit in 1944 prevailed over distance and time and war to set them on an 18 month engagement course to their marriage in October 1945. She was 19.

Three years later the marriage was what they hoped for, and the children were coming fast. But, she still had the record of dates and letters from the competitor suitors from the war years. She moved to destroy the evidence by burning the letters in the b-b-q pit. Or at least tried to burn them.
She was only partially successful, and the next day she looked out the back window to see Dad reading over the bbq. He looked up and wagged a finger at her in a smiling reproach as he read the unburned letter portions. Obviously, there are lessons about love and youth and letters and fire to be learned here.

The family grew and moved to an old farmhouse in the German farming community of Mattese and then to the Valmeyer Lane house.

The challenges of managing the growing Houska family engaged both Mom and Dad more than full time. Mom’s work started in the early morning and lasted to late every day.

There were 4 or more loads of laundry and up to 3 meals to make every day for up to 14 people. Mom did not drive so Dad did the shopping based on her daily phone order. Her calls to Dad were very efficient: “four bread, three milk, 4 chickens, hamburger, 3 dozen eggs, potatoes (they came in 100 lb. bags), onions (50 lb. bags), . . . “ and so on it went.

Eventually they became business partners in running a series of small and then larger businesses culminating in the Indian Hills Swim Club. Dad was always the visionary and in front of the business, but she was often the one to make things happen and always the financial manager and usually handled customer service.

So the invoices, checks, taxes, and the hard phone calls were hers to manage from home. She had no formal preparation for this; she did it with intelligence, hard work, perseverance, and no small measure of bravery.

Along with all of this, she took great care of us. Sometimes she took care of a whole sick bay of children, other times he had just one of us to concentrate on.
John remembers a frigid winter’s day more than 60 years ago when he spent way too much time out on the Rice pond skating and got home crying with frozen hands as Mom was preparing dinner for eight or nine children. She put his hands in her underarms to slowly thaw them out and stuck with him till the pain was gone. She always gave special care to one child in need even as she was serving the many.

By the way, she remained youthful and vibrant for an unusually long time. She and I once went clothing shopping to South County Famous. I was about 25 years old at the time. She was 45. We looked at a few things, and then the sales lady came over and asked me what my wife was interested in.
Eventually we all grew up and left home for our own places. Robert remembers his move, at age 22, out of the house. Now, Dad usually seemed to encourage moving out, sometimes rather pointedly; but for Mom it was very hard. Rob filled his car with his things and then paused to see Mom on the porch looking sad and pained as she watched him prepare to leave.

Even with so many children, the departure and transition from a full-time to a part-time relationship of one child was a loss she took hard.

She was always looking out for the other person even in the little things. Craig tells the story of how Mom would look at him and wink, and say to Cathy, "Craig and I would like ice cream after our dinner." She wanted the ice cream but she also wanted Craig to get his dessert!

There were also tragic times to Mom’s life. When only 24 she lost Barbara to leukemia. Our Dad, the love of her life, died far too young. Cathy told me how Mom carried Dad’s picture with her for the rest of her life.

I hope you find time today and in the future to share more stories and learn from the life of a wonderful person.
I want to conclude by telling you that, as much as I believe anything, I believe that my Mom is a Saint.

I have no specific canonical expertise and certainly no authority regarding sainthood, but as I read the rules, the process begins with and ultimately is grounded in a demonstration of the heroic exercise of virtue. I believe that she meets that requirement in full.

There are many virtues she exercised heroically. Fran suggested I focus on two: Faith and Love. Faith and Love filled her, and she in turn filled the world around her with them.

She had deep faith in Christ and the Church. She did not seem to find theology very interesting, and there certainly was for most of her life few opportunities for time consuming demonstrations of piety. But she believed deeply in the message of Christ and lived that faith every day with no tensions or doubts. She exercised faith in every day in a natural and consistent way.

She also had the capacity for faith in people especially our Dad and our family. Remember she and Dad had spent only a few days together before they married. I am not sure that the hours together could have been more than 30 or 40. Something in Dad inspired her trust, and something in her made her capable of faith in him and in the two of them together.

She maintained that faith through tough times. Some of the older family will remember how the Pepsi used to be watered to make it go further and how some of our nicest clothing came from donations by store customers to our family. Some will also remember the faith in themselves it took to open the swim club and risk so much.

And what a blessing was her faith in her children. We all certainly gave Mom reasons to question what we were doing and why and whether life would turn out well for us.

But, even in the toughest to understand times, she was with us and gave us strength with the confidence, the certainty, that she would be at our side always.
Outside the family, she also seemed to start with a premise of good and a trusting faith in people and worked from there. I do not remember her judging prematurely or presuming ill will or evil in anyone. Which is not to say that she could not express anger at persistent and willful evil when she saw it. But she always began with faith in humanity.

She also demonstrated the greatest virtue, love. We all saw her love for our father and his love in return. What an example! I could not always understand how they worked out their respective roles, but they both were filled with an awesome love that seemed to come easily.

That is an enormous treasure for all of us. That model of love and living was their greatest gift. She loved us, loved our loves and spouses, loved the grandchildren and their spouses and loves and the great grandchildren.

She prayed the rosary late at night and included with it dedications and prayers for all of us and all her friends from long ago. She had so many to pray for that sometimes sleep took over before she finished her list.

She prayed for us every night even as her own health declined. Recently she offered to give up her home hospital bed to help with bed shortages in the Covid-19 crisis.

This is heroic love. She was patient; she was kind; she was not envious; she was not irritable. My Mother brought enormous love to the world. She will always be with us.