Betty Lou Powers

Betty Lou Powers

Betty Lou was born in Fremont, NE, to an Oklahoma homesteader (Elmer S. Bills) and a Milwaukee brewer’s daughter (Minnie Fickel), and then raised in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago by her father, grandmother and Aunt Kate after her mother died when she was just 3 months old. She attended Sutherland and Barnard elementary schools, and Morgan Park High School – excelling almost without trying. She was popular and loved dancing, and in recent years revisited those ballrooms at the Windermere and Del Prado Hotels where she had whirled so many years before.

After taking a degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign in 1937, Betty became a primary-grade teacher at the Skinner School, located in an impoverished central-city neighborhood of Chicago. Two years later, she fell in love and eloped with Jim McBride, a mechanical engineer employed by U.S. Steel. They settled in the Morgan Park neighborhood of Chicago and had two children, James and Richard. While continuing to teach, Betty also took courses at the Art Institute of Chicago, and evening courses in accounting. In the early ’50s, she attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, and her Master’s Degree was the last degree in Home Economics that the school awarded before closing the department forever. Betty then returned to teaching by chairing the home economics department at Chicago’s Lindblom High School.

With an adventuresome spirit, and taking advantage of her prematurely silver-white hair, Betty also became a model for hair design magazines. Deciding that this was great fun, she modeled at department stores in downtown Chicago and then assembled a small group of women to do fashion modeling shows in such city and suburban restaurants as Jack Kilty’s Restaurant, Bananas Steak House, the Martinique, and Beverly Woods.

Then, in 1960, Betty’s husband died, and she became the sole provider for her sons by continuing to teach and to model. Two years later, she fell in love with and married Clem Powers, a fellow teacher at Lindblom High School. Betty retired from teaching in 1965 and the couple moved to Boulder, CO, with subsequent moves to Lafayette, a mountain home near Evergreen, and finally Denver. They raised sheep and shelties for fun, and made a living by doing interior decorating. Betty, always a student, studied antiques and began teaching classes, doing appraisals and estate sales. She taught two antiques classes a week for nearly 35 years, and had such a loyal following that several of her students remained with her for that entire time.

In 2002, Betty and Clem moved to Vermillion to live with their son, Richard. She met new friends and enjoyed the cultural life Vermillion offered. Without her classes to teach, her constant desire for stimulation expressed itself through gardening, continued self-study, and travel – typically taking at least three trips a year with various family combinations, even until the last few of her life.

Betty will be missed by her family (husband of 54 years, Clem; sons Jim and Richard McBride; daughter-in-law Mary Morse, and grandchildren Logan and Kevin McBride), and by her many friends and acquaintances who were touched by her enthusiasm, intelligence, generosity, and joy for life.

Betty was 98 at the time of her death on May 14, 2013. Services to be announced later. For more information, contact Kober Funeral Home, Vermillion, SD.

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