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Remembering Betty

by Wendy Sterba

When I was a young preadolescent in Gainesville in the late 60s, trying to grow up and become a good person, I had no idea that my family’s friend, Betty Odum, was a scientist who would produce twelve publications with almost 900 citations by others. I knew her instead as one of my first day school teachers and as a leader in helping bring together our community with involvement in building and repair projects for the poor on the other side of our segregated town. For us, she was a Mom of our friends Ruthie, Peter, Kathy and “Stevie” but I know now she was also a teacher. Our families would go swimming together or sometimes camping around the state. Betty was a leader in teaching us about nature both in Florida State Parks or simply in the back yard of the meeting house during first day school when we would talk about the connections of systems, be they cultural, natural or philosophical. I fear I gave her grief with my endless cynical questioning, but knowing now that she was a scientist in her other life, I wonder if she didn’t champion the spirit of my questioning, while gently offering alternatives to my doubting philosophical probes. She listened honestly to our childhood explanations of what the inner light might “mean" and was a person who accepted our juvenile theories with that wry smile of hers which gave encouragement while also pushing us to keep questioning and to keep striving to be better and to learn more. Betty was a wonderful model of life-affirming ways to question and grow and be persistent in trying to make the world a better place.

Remembering Gene

By Dick Beardsley
In a Daze 
I’ve been in a daze ever since Gene’s abrupt passing, the morning of April 8.  I’ve been writing down some of my thoughts and feelings in an attempt to make some sense of it all.  I’d like to share some of it with you and I think Gene would like that too.
I Miss
I miss so many things I used to take for granted like still half expecting to hear Gene’s voice greeting me when I return home.  The silence is sometimes deafening.
I miss sharing the small wonders that filled our world: The latest amazing achievements of our amazing grand kids and amazing daughter — spotting a pair of white tail deer as they silently cross our yard in the early morning light — watching from our front porch as the settings unsends beams of golden light back into the woods — listening to the back and forth hoots of the barred owls as they call to their mates — watching the fire flies blinking lights like so many stars in the gathering dusk.
High on the list of the things I miss is the showing off of my latest creation fresh off the workbench to Gene.  She was always the first to see it and try it on.  I valued her appraisal even when it was somewhat critical.  I even miss the things that used to rankle like the ongoing skirmish over the thermostat setting or over the litany of queries regarding things I should have done or should be doing.  It was expressed gently but at time with a look of some exasperation.  She knew I could be a bit spacey and at times needed a little adult supervision.  I could use that now.  
I also dearly miss the occasional surprise like freshly baked oatmeal muffins to go with my morning coffee, and baking rhubarb pie for my birthday as only she could bake it, served still warm from the oven topped with vanilla ice cream.
Gene’s Comeback 
Gene was riding high on a crest of well being when she left us so suddenly.  Many of you played a major role in bringing her back from a particularly dark passage in her life. Your gentle reaching out and caring made all the difference.
Gene Loved the Meeting
I don’t think I need to tell youths but Gene loved the meeting with every fiber of her being.  Her life was woven into the fabric of the Meeting for over 40 years.
She was steadfast though thick and thin — never giving up on the meeting even when it did not come up to her expectations and hopes.  She was probably clerk of every committee in the meeting’s existence.
Beloved Community
Most importantly she never gave up on transforming the Meeting into a `beloved community’: she molded that transforming love.
Send Off
I know Gene would have been very pleased with the send off we gave her, especially at the grave site.  It was as if God had pulled out all the stops!  
It will forever be etched in my mind.  I’m recalling
  • Sunlight filtered down through shades of green, casting a soft beam of light on Gene’s white shroud.
  • A gentle breeze rustled the leaves bearing the loamy smell of the fretting turned earth.
  • A serenade of bird song drifted down from the tree tops.
  • The hallowed words of Gene’s favorite hymns hung in the air, sung ever so sweetly by our own almost heavenly angels.
  • The hushed silence as Gene’s shrouded body was gently lowered into the grave.
  • The rythmic sound of shovels returning the earth in to the grave as long-time friends and family shared in this holy ritual. 
  • The profusion of colors and sweet scents of cut flowers being lovingly placed on the grave.
  • The placement of the small brass marker with Gene’s birth and death dates and the works of the him she loved, `My life flows on’.
  • Last but not least for me was the visceral sensation of being lifted by a great sea of light and lover.
  • I believe Gene’s life flows on in my life and in the life of the Meeting.