IRVINGTON—Remembering Betsy E. Heller, March 29, 1934—December 2, 2020.
“One singular sensation, every little step she takes…”
This quote from the Broadway show “A Chorus Line” is also the perfect tagline for the life, wisdom and humor of Betsy E. Heller of Irvington, who peacefully died Wednesday. December 2, surrounded by her family. She is remembered for being a wonderful supportive and loving wife to the late Norman G. Heller, as well as a beloved mother, “Groggy,” “Bibi,” sister, aunt and friend. When people think of Betsy, they remember her as the life of the party, the sparkle in the room and the woman whose quick wit and clever turn of phrase left people always smiling and laughing in her presence. Like Auntie Mame (another favorite!), Betsy was a woman who knew how to LIVE!
Born on March 29, 1934, in New London, Connecticut, she was proud to be a pupil at the Harbor School and became an avid golfer and lover of card games. Betsy had quite the competitive gene and has been known for winning bridge tournaments often and being relentless at beating her family at their long-favorite game of Pounce! A love of music was also nurtured early with a lovely singing voice and skill with instruments—ukuleles, especially.
In later years, she became the honorary fifth member of her daughter and granddaughter’s quartet Aged to Perfection and was there during their crowning win at Internationals in 2018 giving her the official title of “Queen Mum.”
After majoring in psychology and graduating from Goucher College (class of 1955), Betsy returned to Connecticut where she began her first job as “the missing link” at the Whitney Chain Company and then, most auspiciously, met Norm Heller on a blind date. Though it was love at first sight (for her mother and Norm, that is) the two were smitten and married in June of 1956, enjoying 50 years of marriage with many adventures along the way.
Betsy played an integral role in Norm’s successful railroad career, including guiding the family through moves around the southeast to Atlanta, Annapolis and Hampton, before finally retiring to the Northern Neck in 1993. They quickly became embedded in the social and boating scene, leading many yachting flotillas at Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club, holiday boating parades, golf outings, chorales, and Betsy especially was known for being a fierce competitor in bridge and mahjong circles far and wide.
Betsy loved to be with her friends. After losing Norm way too early, she remained very active while also focusing on providing love and support to friends who would soon experience the loss of a loved one.
Inspired by her love for needlepointing and a needlepoint nautical chart which she designed for Norm, Betsy launched Canvas Creations in the early 1970s. For over 30 years, she supplied catalogues, gift shops and presidential libraries with kits containing charts, lighthouses and reproductions of special artifacts, all personalized by the buyer’s handiwork. Over a 60-year span ,Betsy created many works of art which now decorate her home, and the homes of her family and friends.
Travel was a tremendous love of Betsy’s, especially when she and Norm could open the world to their family. Trips to many places included the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Argentina, Morocco, Ireland, Mexico, Kenya and South Africa. Betsy was especially pleased by taking her grandchildren to see the wonders of Tanzania. Animals delighted her and Betsy especially loved the lions, giraffes, zebras and elephants all running free throughout the Serengeti.
Betsy is survived by her three children, Jeff Heller, Randy Heller and Kathy Pomer, and their families including five grandchildren, Scott, Nick, Kevin, Ellie and Jack; and her brother, Bill Elfenbein and his family.
Friends will gather and share stories about adventures with Betsy next summer when it is safer to do so. Online condolences can be made at CurrieFuneral.com or on Betsy Heller’s Facebook page.
Our family is so deeply grateful to the staff for the excellent care from both Rappahannock Westminster-Canterbury in Irvington and Hospice of Virginia. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to either of those organizations or to a cause close to your own heart.