Elizabeth Crawford Lovett Gaetjens, 106, died March 27, 2020. Her longevity was surpassed by her devotion to both family and close friends and her commitment to education and life-long learning.
Betty was born on June 1, 1913 to William Curtis and Mary Crawford Rodenbaugh Lovett and was a lifetime resident of Cleveland. She fondly recalled her nurturing teachers at Wade Park and Hough Schools and graduated from East High School. Her selection to Phi Beta Kappa at Flora Stone Mather College for Women of (then) Western Reserve University in 1935 provides proof for the newspaper article about her titled “Brains and Beauty.” Betty went on a double date with her best friend and was introduced to her future husband, Allen Keifer Gaetjens, who graduated from Case Institute of Technology. They began their married life October 17, 1935 and were delighted when their two sons followed, Allen Crawford Gaetjens and David Lovett Gaetjens.
Betty and Allen shared their love of travel with the boys in adventures into the Grand Canyon and crisscrossing the country on road trips. After the boys left home, the couple had time to travel abroad and travel they did. Their adventures in Europe ranged from London to Athens with a special affinity for Florence.
Perhaps one of the strongest personality traits about Betty was her effervescent optimism. Once in Florence someone on a motorcycle tried to grab her shoulder bag, but she held on to it. Although injured and taken to the hospital, as she was being admitted she looked up and marveled that she would not have seen the beautiful ceiling frescoes had she not been injured.
Both Betty and Allen shared a love of intellectual challenge and were founding members in 1945 of the first Great Books group in Cleveland at East Cleveland’s Main Library. In the decades that followed they were dedicated to their twice-monthly commitment to rigorous academic discussion of a Great Book as defined by St. John’s College list of 100 Great Books. As a discussion leader Betty was recognized for both her brilliance and eloquence as acknowledged by Renee Paolino, the current group leader of the next generation group in that “the group is strong and will continue thanks for her decades of dedication.”
Beginning in 1960 Betty and Allen joined a volunteer organization, the Barrett Chapter, working with the Cleveland Branch of the Florence Crittenton Society involved in the assistance of young unmarried mothers. In addition to supporting the residence for the young women in the old Drury Mansion, Betty and Allen served as trustees for the organization.
Her persistence and sewing skills have been celebrated by the family as she has generously provided hand sewn quilts for them. The first quilt was initially cut out in 1928 by the young girl who planned to redecorate her room. However, studies and family intervened, but wherever Betty lived, she carried the pieces of the quilt. In 1983 she completed the quilt, totally hand sewn, and presented it to her older son, nicknamed Jock.
She was predeceased by her parents and her beloved husband, Allen. She is survived by her Gaetjens family of sons, Allen and Sara, and Dave and Martha. Her grandsons and wives include Stuart and Cara, Steve and Kristin, Bob and Melissa, and Charlie. Great grandchildren include Will and Mallory, Thomas, Linnea, Britta, Scott and Kelsey, Jeff and Ellyn, Zoe, Mia, and Kai. And Betty’s great-great granddaughter Kelly Elizabeth Gaetjens.
At every stage of her life Betty had special friends. To those friends and their families a special gratitude from all of the Gaetjens for your care and love for Betty.
When asked how she got from age 104 to 105, Betty told her grandson Charlie “Great curiosity about what’s around the next corner.” Other important advice she shared with her family was the E.M. Forster quote, “Only connect.”
A celebration of Betty Gaetjens’ life will be held at a later date due to these extraordinary times.
You might choose to honor the life of Betty Gaetjens through a donation to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights, your public library, or a charity of your choice.