Elizabeth Maria Cornelia “Betsy” Severiens (née van Lutsenburg Maas), 91, died peacefully on October 20, 2022 surrounded by family. Betsy was born on September 1, 1931 in Beira, Mozambique and emigrated with her family to the United States in 1938, when her father went to work for the Holland-America Line in New York City. The family settled in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.
Betsy was the eldest of six children and loved spending time with her two sisters and three brothers playing in the family orchestra, tending the Victory Garden and helping around the house. After graduating from Principia College, she continued her studies in International Relations at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She and several other students formed a jaarclub called “Carillon,” which resulted in deep, lifelong friendships and memorable visits on both sides of the Atlantic. While studying at Leiden, Betsy met her future husband, Johannes “Hans” C. Severiens, Jr., a post-doctoral research scientist at the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark. While they had lived only 15 miles apart growing up in New Jersey and their fathers knew each other through business, it was in the Netherlands that Betsy and Hans met. They were married on August 3, 1957 in Leiden and moved to Rungsted, Denmark.
After the birth of their daughter, Annette, they returned to the United States to be close to both sets of parents, settling in Bethesda, Maryland, where Clara and Liesbeth were born. In 1964, the family moved to Irvington-on-Hudson, New York. Betsy loved being a mother and homemaker, cooking delicious meals and desserts, playing tennis, and maintaining her connections with family and friends.
In 1981, Betsy enrolled at Long Island University to continue her graduate studies in International Relations. During this time, she also fulfilled a lifelong dream of working at the United Nations – for UNICEF – and also became a partner in a Scandinavian store, with locations both in and outside of New York City. Betsy discovered that she was good at sales and running a small business, giving her another reason to travel to Denmark and the Netherlands. Two years after beginning her graduate studies, she was awarded a Master of Science degree, with Honors. After a stint at New York Life Insurance, Betsy joined the prestigious global law firm, Shearman & Sterling, as a legal assistant in the Litigation Department. Betsy’s work ethic, intelligence, and ability to speak several languages made her highly sought after by partners for their litigation teams. Firm management appreciated her organizational skills and leadership qualities and promoted her to legal assistant coordinator. She enjoyed the work and valued her relationships with colleagues.
Betsy retired in 1996 to help her family by caring for her grandchildren. She loved being an integral part of their lives and watching the next generation grow. Betsy’s focus later came to include documenting family genealogy, gardening, and travel. In 2018, Betsy moved from her beloved Hudson Valley home to live with her daughter and son-in-law in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Betsy is survived by her three daughters, Annette Severiens Himes (Brett) of Shaker Heights, OH, Clara Severiens Barrett (Christopher) of Ithaca, NY, and Liesbeth Severiens Parke (Richard) of Irvington, NY; ten grandchildren; one great-grandchild; brother Jacob van Lutsenburg Maas (Robin); and sister-in-law Ruth Severiens (Jacobus – deceased).
Those who wish may contribute in her name to UNICEF.
Memorial services will be held at a place, date, and time to be announced.