Betty Sue O'Dell Simonson’s Celebration of Life, June 30, 2018
Good morning, everyone. My name is Scott Granneman. When my mom would introduce me to people, she would always say, “This is my oldest son, Scott.” Every time, I would immediately say, “I’m also the smartest and the most modest.” And every time, Mom would roll her eyes and say “Scott!” It was one of our little routines we always did.
I’m joined here today by my wife Robin & my son Finn, my brother Gus, his wife Sepi, & their ridiculously cute toddler son Ross. We also have my cousin Joe, who came all the way from England, & my Aunt Barbara & Uncle Roy. In addition, we are also surrounded by my mother’s many, many friends & acquaintances, ranging from people that she has known since she was a young woman through those that she met only in her later years. Thank you all for being here. I only wish my Mom could see all of you right now. I know she’d have something to say to everyone here.
Although I will mention her death, our meeting here today is not a funeral. Funerals are a necessary ritual, but they are not necessary for everyone. In my mother’s case, Gus & I decided that we instead wanted a Celebration of Life, a meeting together of people that loved & cared about her so that we could talk & think & remember her life, her accomplishments, & what she meant to us all.
I’m going to speak about my mother first, & then we have several people who have said that they would like to come up & speak as well. After that, I’ll open the floor to anyone who wants to say something about Betty Sue. Following this Ceremony of Life, please feel free to join us at my mom’s house, just a few buildings south of here and next to Hartley’s Furniture, for food & drinks & conversation.
My mother was born on June 28, 1935, in Marshall, Betty Sue Scott was the daughter of Edgar Charles Scott and Ruth Elizabeth Cromley Scott, and the younger sister of Charles Marion Scott, who died in infancy in 1930. Mom always said that they didn’t have a lot when she was growing up, but she always had enough & she was raised by two excellent parents.
She was a graduate of Marshall High School and attended Central Missouri State College in Warrensburg, Missouri. In 1955 she won the nation’s 3rd largest beauty pageant and was crowned the Queen of the American Royal in Kansas City, MO. She was very beautiful, something she carried with her for many decades to come.
In 1956 she left CMSU before graduating to marry my dad, Ralph Leonard Granneman, nicknamed “Gus”. Dad was a great guy, but they were not a perfect match by any means. Dad was quiet, deliberate, & sometimes lost in his own thoughts. Mom was outgoing, quick to judgment & action, & sometimes impatient. Still, they often had a lot of fun together, especially, as I found out many years after I was born, on the Undecided, a houseboat that was the scene of many parties with friends. And Mom always used to talk about how much fun it was to play Bridge with Dad, & how good he was at the game.
Mom & Dad divorced in 1976. Mom went on to marry again, although Dad never did. Her husband Earl died in 1984. I started college in 1985, and a funny thing happened. Although they had divorced a decade earlier, Mom started inviting Dad over for holiday dinners & events such as Thanksgiving & Christmas & birthdays. Gus & I appreciated it tremendously. Dad didn’t have a lot of other places to go, & we loved sharing special times with our father.
Dad started showing signs of Alzheimer’s in the early 1990s, & our mom came through for him even though she didn’t have to. She called me one night & told me that she had been driving around the Square about 7 p.m., when she saw our dad trying to open the door to the Red Cross Pharmacy in his gas station uniform. Red Cross had closed at 5, but Dad was banging on the door in a confused way. Mom pulled over & asked Dad what was going on. He told her that he was trying to get inside so he could get his breakfast. Apparently he had gotten home from work, lost track of time for a few hours, & then saw the clock & thought it was time to head to Red Cross for his morning breakfast, as he did every work day. Mom said she told him, “Gus, if you’d like some breakfast, I’ll be glad to cook you some”. He came back to her house & he wolfed down a large breakfast. I wonder how long it had been since he had eaten a good meal. After that, my brother & I had to make some hard decisions about our father & what his care should be.
Mom had divorced Dad almost twenty years earlier, but in both cases — when she invited him to her house for family dinners & when she invited him back to her house for breakfast — she showed us through her examples that she still cared about him, & that compassion doesn’t have to die when a marriage ends. Her actions greatly influenced Gus & I, & we have never forgotten them.
Mom lived by herself for about a decade & a half, but then, in her 60s, an old acquaintance from decades before decided to move from the Lake of the Ozarks back to Marshall. Ray Simonson started his new life by looking for a house to buy, & the very first house the realtor showed him felt very familiar. Suddenly he remembered why — it was the house on South Salt Pond that Ralph & Betty Sue had lived in from the 50s to the 70s! He found out where Mom lived & dropped by to say hello. They started dating very soon after, & then Ray moved in, & the finally they decided to get married in 2002, when he was 76 & she was 67. Mom let us know by emailing us the following, which sounds just like something she would say:
Ray and I have finally decided to get married on Dec. 8—if it suits you. He came to see me on Dec. 8 three years ago. It really won't change anything financially as we have already talked to Don Huff some time back when we were redoing all kinds of legal crap.
Ray & Mom had a lot of fun together. They traveled to various cities around the country — one time to a Buddy Holly festival that they both loved — & to Spain for a friend’s wedding. They entertained friends and family. And they bought a second home in Arrow Rock that my mom got to decorate in her usual tasteful, cozy, & traditional way.
Unfortunately, Ray got sick & died in 2015. Now, Ray & I butted heads a few times. But in his eulogy, I wrote “I loved that he loved my mother, & that he wanted to take care of her. He really treated her well, & if we didn’t, he would not hesitate to call us on it. It made me happy to know that my Mom was happy.” And that was all true.
After Ray died, Mom was on her own again. I know, because she often told me, that she missed Ray every single day until her death.
As a mother to two boys, Betty Sue put up with many challenges. Mom always encouraged Gus & I to learn. One of my earliest memories was when Mom took me to the dentist. While we were waiting, she pulled out a book of basic arithmetic problems and drilled me with them, which actually was fun for both of us. However, Georgann DeMoss later taught math to me in middle school, & I think she will agree that it clearly did not stick. But thanks anyway, Mom!
When we were kids & burned through books almost daily, she always let us buy more. She read to us when we were little, but both Gus & I learned how to read at very young ages — you’re welcome, Gus! — so she didn’t have to do it for long. In fact, I remember well her trying to read a child’s version of Moby-Dick to me (which I still have, by the way). As she later told it to us, “I had a hard time doing all the accents, so I finally just handed it to you & said, ‘Here you go — you read it!’”.
When we were still under 10 & living on South Salt Pond, she would often look at Gus & I & say, “Alright you two — go outside & play & you can’t come inside for the next four hours.” Looking back now from the age of 50, I'm pretty sure that was as much for her benefit as it was for ours!
Later in life, when Gus & I were in high school & then college, Mom loved it when our friends came to our house to hang out & shoot the breeze. My dear friend Jans Carton told me recently that of all the parents he came into contact with during our high school years, Mom was the one that took the most interest in other kids & talked to them at length & asked them about their lives. And of course, she also treated them like her sons. If someone got out of line, she let them know it. Immediately. Jans was trying to show off one night & spun his car out in Mom’s gravel driveway, which created a donut or two. As she was dying, Jans sent me this memory of Mom:
I still can’t believe she forgave me (almost immediately) for doing donuts in her driveway. I thought she was going to call the cops, but she just made me rake the gravel after I apologized.
That was my mom. Our friends all learned this lesson early: do not cross Betty Sue, or she will come down on you like you were her own child!
Mom loved to travel for business or pleasure. When we were younger, we went on several memorable road trips.
When I was about 10, I read in the Kansas City Star about a town in Iowa named White Cloud. Every year, vendors from all over the US would head to White Cloud, & the entire town became a giant rummage sale. I showed Mom the article, & that was it — the entire family was heading to White Cloud, Iowa! We formed a small caravan, with Mom’s then-husband Earl & Betty Sue & Gus in one car, & Grandpa & Grandma Scott in the other along with me. We’d leave while it was still dark & arrive at the town, eat a quick lunch, & then we’d all split up & go exploring. Many hours later, we’d meet up again & show each other the treasures we’d found. We were all collectors of various things, so no one passed judgment. We went a few years in a row, & it’s one of my most cherished memories.
In 1984 Gus & Mom & I drove all the way to the east coast and made it all the way out to Provincetown on Cape Cod. We parked the car & started walking around. If you’ve never been to Provincetown, trust me, there is something interesting happening on every block. It’s kind of like New York City’s Times Square on a beach. As we walked around that day, I was loving it, but Mom kept saying, “There is a lot of weird stuff going on here!” I said, “No it’s not, Mom. This place isn’t weird!” Just then we rounded a corner & there stood a man in a giant lobster costume. She turned her head & looked at me, & I was forced to say, “OK Mom, you’re right. It’s a little weird.”
When I was 21 years old & starting graduate school, & Gus was 20 & still in college, Mom announced to us that she was taking us to DisneyWorld in Florida. We’d never been before, & she thought it would be fun for the three of us to go. We had a great time! Mom was a good sport the whole time & joined us on a lot of rides & activities, & waited for Gus & I to go on the rides that would’ve made her sick. We ate, walked everywhere, & explored the attractions, & meanwhile Mom & Gus took every opportunity to make fun of me for carrying a book called Great Irish Short Stories with me to read while we waited in line.
The only downside was that we all shared a motel room. Now, normally this would not be a problem, but I was trapped in a room at night with two of the most accomplished snorers in the world. Gus had a snore that would keep a deaf man awake, but Mom … Mom had a snore that would wake the dead & then scare them back into their graves. It was truly awe-inspiring. Four pillows over my head did nothing. Great trip, but I sure was miserable sleeping in that room. Late in life, Mom finally got a CPAP machine to help her sleep, which also helped stop her snoring. Finally!
When we were in high school & home from college, Mom would often go away for several days to quilt shows, leaving us to guard the house. Of course, we took every opportunity to invite as many friends over as we could & have a party. And of course, we would then, as carefully as possible, clean up everything & try to restore it back to normal, with varying degrees of success.
One time she was gone for a long weekend during the summer, so we took the opportunity to invite people over for a good time. It was a roaring success, but at one point during the evening, Kyle Naylor & David Hartley got into a little tussle, & Kyle managed to put David’s head through the thin sheetmetal at the bottom of her outside storm door. Kyle came by the next day to look for a replacement, but — shockingly! — we couldn’t find any white sheetmetal on a Sunday afternoon, so we instead found some plywood, cut it the right size, painted it white, & put it in the storm door. We figured it was better than nothing.
The next day, Gus & I got into a friendly brotherly disagreement that resulted in me chasing him throughout the house so that I could kill him. He escaped out the back door with the white plywood on it & in frustration I punched the ceiling. Two seconds later, I realized that I had created a nice big divot right in the ceiling. Mom was due back the next day, so I immediately sprung into action. I ran to the hardware store & bought spackle & white paint. After that, I would've made Michelangelo proud — I Sistine Chapeled that ceiling, perfectly applying spackle & making sure all signs of a divot were gone. Then I carefully, carefully painted the ceiling with the white paint so there would be absolutely no evidence that I had damaged the ceiling.
The next day, Gus & I were sitting in the family room chairs by the back door, trying to act as civilized & innocent as possible. Mom pulled into the driveway. We waited. The back door opened, Mom walks in, & as she’s walking in she says, “What happened to the back door?!” & then, immediately after, points up & says, “And what happened to the ceiling?!” Busted! All of our best laid plans, exposed in an instant!
When I asked her in amazement how she could tell — I mean, I was so careful! — she looked at me pityingly & said, as though I was an idiot, which I was, “You used a glossy paint”. Ohhh…
We had another even bigger party soon afterward, & this time we cleaned that house. No more repeats of last time! Again, Mom comes home as Gus & I sit there, looking as innocent as two baby lambs. We greet her, help her carry in her bags, & then settle back in our chairs, glancing at each as if to say, “Ha! We got away with this one!”
Two minutes later, Mom calls out, “Boys, would you please come into the dining room?” We walk into there, acting as sweetly as possible, & say, “Yes, mother dear, what may we do for you?” She then points at the chandelier over the dining room table & says, “How did 50 pull top tabs get attached to the chandelier?” Both of our mouths dropped open as we looked. We had cleaned the house so carefully, but someone had methodically pinched the pull top tabs from every empty can of beer in the house onto the chandelier! Of course we hadn’t noticed that when we were cleaning! And Mom noticed it the first time she walked into the dining room! Busted again!
Now we need to talk about animals. There are people who like animals, & people who love animals, & then there was Betty Sue. In a picture from 1967 I found, Mom is laying on a couch with a cat named Molly on her lap. On the back Mom wrote, "Always had a cat". And yes she did!
She had many cats. Before we came along, there was Molly, of course, & Mary, & Alexander, who she once found standing in the middle of a dessert during a dinner party. When I was growing up, we did in fact always have a cat. There was Tom, & Kitty, & Bat, & Ci-Ci, & Ghost Cat, & Rickie the long-lived, & Homer the short-lived. Once Mom & Ray moved to Arrow Rock, she decided to adopt a few strays — Josie, & Lucky, & the beloved Fuzzy. But her biggest project was taking care of the feral cats that lived in Arrow Rock at the time. Every night, Mom would open the door to her back patio & pour many scoops of dry cat food on the bricks there, along with a large baking pan full of milk. At least 20 cats would swarm the food, along with an occasional possum or raccoon, happily enjoying a delicious dinner. She even went so far as to ask my then brother-in-law, who was a vet in St. Louis, to come to Arrow Rock for a special job. Mom & Ray caught as many cats as they could, & my brother-in-law Ken proceeded to spay & neuter the cats on Mom’s dining room table so the population would be reduced naturally. Was she a crazy cat lady? Well, it might have been close, but since they didn’t live inside the house, we decided that she wasn’t quite there yet.
And then there were the dogs. While they were married, Dad had a hunting dog named Rex. When I got a Shih-Tzu named Alex, Mom thought he was cute. I had to teach for three weeks in Columbia one summer, & Mom gladly took him for those three weeks. The next summer, she asked if she could keep Alex a bit longer. The summer after that, she asked if she could keep the dog even longer. Within a few years, she had stolen Alex from me & he was her dog! She loved that dog. He used to be a biter, & I’d come home & see fresh bite marks on her ankles. I’d ask, “Mom, did Alex do that?!", & she would say, “Oh, he didn’t mean anything by it. He’s a good boy.” When she finally had to euthanize Alex, she told me it was the hardest thing she had ever done. And I believed her.
And of course there was Holly, who was a puppy that Mom found running on Highway 41 during one winter day on her way from Marshall to Arrow Rock. And later there was Buddy, a Corgi puppy that Jane the vet introduced to her, who I have now. She loved those dogs, as did Ray.
The animals of Marshall lost a huge friend & protector when my mother died on June 1.
My grandmother Ruth Scott taught my mother how to sew while she was a child, & it was a craft that she worked at perfecting her entire life. Mom created needlepoints for many years, and even branched out into clothing. She not only created clothes for herself & others, but also got into the pattern business in a big way. Mom & I were both night owls, & I remember many nights the family room TV would be showing David Letterman while I lay on the couch reading & Mom was back in the corner with her sewing machine humming continuously. I learned a valuable lesson from my mother thanks to that — always keep busy. And if you’re going to watch TV, work on something else at the same time. As anyone who’s ever watched TV at home with me — I follow the same rule Mom taught me, even if my tool is a computer instead of a sewing machine.
However, Mom would not be pleased with me if I left out one her absolutely biggest passions in life: quilting. There she truly excelled. She created many beautiful, creative, award-winning quilts that were displayed around the United States & internationally.
In particular, she made a type of crazy quilt called a memory quilt for family & friends. A memory quilt consists of several blocks, with each block focusing on a different aspect of the quilt recipient’s life. Mom would create the block & then sew into it photos of ancestors or children, family heirlooms & mementoes, and objects related to the people in the block, such as spoons or badges or buttons. Each quilt took Mom a lot of time & work, but the results were simply stunning. They are beautiful works of art that also function as family history lessons. My mother made one for my cousin Joe & she had a party in January of 2014 to present it to him. The Marshall Democrat-News ran a story about the quilt, & in it I was quoted saying the following about the memory quilt she had made for me:
It’s also a product of my mother's art and she's an incredible artist. It’s not just me that I think about, it’s not just the other people that are on that that I think about. But it’s her that I think about as well. … The beautiful thing about my memory quilt is that it brings all the people I’ve cared about in my life together in one amazing work of art."
In 2003 Mom combined her love of entertaining friends & educating people about art with her passion for quilting & created a business. In that year she founded & ran the Arrow Rock Quilt Camp, a week-long get-together for women interested in quilting, learning, eating, and conversing. She loved meeting her old & new-found friends every summer before selling it several years later. It’s still going strong.
Mom was artistic in several areas beyond quilting. She liked to paint houses & towns & seasons onto tables & chairs & accordion room dividers, & although she always said she wasn’t that great, I believe she could have focused on just that talent & been a folk artist of merit.
She also stenciled walls & boxes & furniture & pillows, & taught me how to do it. In fact, for several years my after school job was sitting in her basement stenciling boxes that she then sold all over the world. It was easy, fun work that I really enjoyed, & the money was pretty good too. In an appropriate 1980s moment, her boxes once appeared, to her shock and excitement as we ate dinner, as prizes on Wheel of Fortune.
She also had exceptional handwriting, akin to calligraphy. I remember that she once wrote a note for me to give to my middle school band instructor chastising me for not practicing my trombone enough. She handed it to me, told me to read it, & then asked me what I thought. I told her that her penmanship was exceptional. That did not go well.
Finally, in later life she joined the Marshall Writer’s Guild & started writing stories about her life. We all loved reading her personal histories as she sent them, & I plan to combine them together into one publication for family members & friends, something she had talked about many times.
And of course, all of us who knew my mom knew that she did not suffer fools gladly, that if she gave you advice & you didn’t follow it that she was going to let you know that you made a bad decision not listening to her, & that she could have a very sharp tongue when she was not happy with someone or something.
Often what she said was very funny. When my brother married Sepi, my mom stood up at the dinner afterward, turned to Sepi, & said, "Well, you got the good one!”
My favorite example of this comes from her struggles with the Kansas City Star to get the paper reliably delivered to her home. The paper wouldn’t be delivered, & she would then write an angry, excoriating email to the Star complaining about the problem. She loved sharing these emails with her family, so I’m going to share a couple with you. Please feel free to laugh — we all thought they were hilarious.
From July 16, 2006; subject “NO PAPER AGAIN”:
Could someone please explain to the carrier the difference between a front porch and a backyard driveway? I live in a 134 year old house with a huge yard. Of course a house of that age has a front porch. That is where I am able to get to with my limited oxygen. A person came to spray my backyard patio this morning and found the KC Star on my backyard driveway. That is not acceptable. I appreciate your comforting emails to me, but they are not getting the message to the carrier yet. I'm getting fed up.
From April 16, 2017; subject “No paper again”:
Okay, please level with me. Is there an invisible hex on my house that only the delivery people can see? This is driving me crazy! I am so frustrated that I want to cry-----or scream----or jump off a tall cliff! I was cautiously optimistic as I walked to my front door this morning as Thursdays and Sundays seem to be the worst days for the delivery person to find my house (although I am situated on the busiest street in town.) I opened the door, and yea!!! it's right there!! Wonderful. I go get my cup of coffee, and settle into my big easy chair for a couple of hours of enjoying the Sunday KANSAS CITY STAR. I remove the wrapper and what do I find???? The COLUMBIA TRIBUNE! It seems like a good paper, but I am paying for, and want to read the KC Star.
I have been reading the KC Star since the 1950's and have actually made the front page several times. No! I did not rob a bank. I was an American Royal Queen many years ago. This has nothing to do with the immediate problem that just doesn't seem to go away. I just wanted you to know that I have tried to be a loyal fan for many years. Please credit my account---again, and I do not want todays paper tomorrow.
From May 3, 2017; subject “NO PAPER—AGAIN!!!!!”:
I am sick of this! I have tried every way I know to get the right persons attention so this matter can be cured! I get nice little apologies from you but it just keeps on happening. WHY???
Why do I have some idiot delivery person that decides which days I can receive the paper, and which days I can't, when I pay for it every single day? I live alone, mostly housebound, and on oxygen 24/7. I cannot run down to the C-store and pick up a paper, and shouldn't have to anyway. I'm paying for EVERYDAY DELIVERY.
Please, no lame apologies, just get it resolved., and credit my account for yet another day.
The last one, from May 17, 2017; subject “Question”:
Why would you hire somebody to represent your company that is either too stupid, or too lazy, or both to do the job? Today marks the eleventh time since last fall that I have not gotten a KC Star. I don't get it, and have no patience with people that I am paying that can't follow through. Am I the last one on the route and they have run out of papers? Are they sleepy and just want to go home and sleep? Do they need to hurry on to another job? Get a kid off to school? What is the PROBLEM??? It certainly has nothing to do with me not paying. It is deducted from my bank account each month.
Please Google 466 South Odell, Marshall, MO, and take a look at my house. It has no charging elephants in the front yard, no mad dogs, no high rise barbed wire fences. It is just a nice old 134 year Victorian home with a huge yard, and an inviting front porch. Very harmless!!
I want this problem solved. Your sweet little apologies are NOT getting the job done. Try another approach.
That is just classic Mom right there.
Friend & Hostess
As I mentioned earlier, my mom became a bit of a writer in later life. One of her short essays, written in February 2017 in response to the question “What is your favorite food memory?”, said a lot about her. She wrote:
Growing up I thought all Mom’s cooked just like my mom. I had no idea that my mom was a standout cook until I went away to college.
On my first weekend home from college, I’ll never forget the wonderful smells of chili bubbling on the stove and a fresh baked apple pie cooling on the back porch. Those memories have stayed with me for over 60 years.
I also wrote a story about my mother giving instructions for recipes. She would always say, “Don’t stand back.” She grew up on a farm where everything was plentiful.
That meant if you were adding sugar to a gooseberry pie, then don’t stand back. Add all of it, and maybe a touch more. Add ALL the butter and cream to the mashed potatoes, and maybe a touch more — don’t stand back. I have caught myself using that same term when talking to my sons about recipes. It also serves well for a person or friend in need. Don’t stand back!
Anyone that knew my Mom knew that she never stood back, in food, friendship, or life.
When Gus & I brought home friends from college, Mom opened up her home to them. And when Gus & I introduced Sepi & Robin to her, she opened up her heart as well as her home. After Gus had been dating Sepi for about six months, they finally called Mom on Christmas Day so that they could wish her a happy holiday & introduce Sepi. At the end of the conversation, Mom said, “I love you both!” The fact that she would say that the first time she had ever talked to Sepi touched Sepi deeply, & she has never forgotten it.
As I mentioned in her obituary, Mom was one of the best hostesses ever to grace Marshall, Missouri. She liked to throw parties & get-togethers for friends. Her parties brought together many of her skills at cooking, decoration, presentation, and knowing just the right mix of people to invite over for a good time and great conversation. And she loved those people. She had a very wide circle of friends, many of whom she had known for decades, & she loved them all. She always loved visiting with them & doing things with them. And to those who visited her at home when she couldn’t get out nearly as much & during her final months when she was in the hospital or assisted living, thank you. Those visits meant the world to her. Thank you for all that you all did for my mother.
And in that spirit, I’d now like to open up the floor to others who would like to say a few words about my Mom & what she meant to them.
Other speakers were:
- Gordon Collins
- Donna Huston
- John Simonson
- Joe Cromley
- Robin Woltman
- Jacki Carton
Mom wasn’t religious at all, which was fine with me. However, we all search for greater meaning & relevance when someone dies. The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has a powerful statement that I like to think about in times like this.
The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally, stardust.
Mom was always a star to Gus & I & to many other people. It’s nice to know that she really was one, still is, & will always be so. That seems about as appropriate as anything.
Once again, I want to remind people that immediately after our time here today, please feel free to join us at my mom’s house, just a few buildings south of here and next to Hartley’s Furniture, for food & drinks. We look forward to seeing you there.
Thank you all for coming to Betty Sue’s Celebration of Life. I know she would’ve been both highly embarrassed & extremely delighted to hear all the wonderful memories we’ve shared today. My brother Gus & I, & the rest of our family, will never forget it.