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Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face. — George Eliot
Elizabeth Jean Kerr (Porter) passed away peacefully on October 8, 2023 at the Kyle and District Health Centre in Kyle, Saskatchewan. Born on January 7, 1932 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Betty - as she was known - grew up in Plato, Saskatchewan.
Betty is survived by four children Jim (Debra, his children Graham and Allan), Darrel (Lynn, children Kathy (Ricardo) and Joshua (Noelene) and their children Robert and Andrew), Heather Acton (Kevin, children Hannah and Luke (Madison), Jack (children, Meghan and Dawson), and daughter-in-law, Jodi. Betty is also survived by her youngest brother Norman (Ruth), her sister-in-law Anne (Keith) as well as several nieces and nephews and extended family who all lived large in her life.
Betty is preceded in death by her husband Robert (Bob) Kerr, her parents Ernest and Jean, older brothers Keith and Allan and his wife Vi, Bob’s parents Edmund and Gwen Kerr, and sister-in-law Ruth (Kerr) Howe and her husband Maury.
Judging by Betty's many vivid stories of growing up in Plato it seemed like a magical place. All fun and games and dancing that included many colourful characters. Jean (Ryland) Mitchell and Betty maintained a close friendship for their entire lives. As Jean says, "With free range parenting our days were carefree and fun filled". It’s no surprise that in a home filled with music and parents who played in a dance band, Betty and her brothers all loved dancing. Mom, we think, was perhaps her most joyful when on the dance floor. She and Bob were beautiful dancers and she was positively gleeful when her big brothers would hurl her about the hall even in later years.
After high school Betty attended Normal School in Saskatoon where she was awarded her Saskatchewan Professional A Teacher’s Certificate. Her first teaching position was in a one-room schoolhouse in Isham, Saskatchewan where she was both teacher and caretaker. She embraced her job with energy and enthusiasm and cared deeply for her students.
Summers for Betty were primarily spent at Clearwater Lake where her parents had a trailer and she enjoyed swimming, sailing, tennis, and hanging out at main beach with friends. A family sailboat was built and named the “Betty Jean”. Mom had especially fond memories of weekend dances at the round dance hall on Main Beach. That is where she met Bob Kerr whose family also had a cabin at Clearwater. Romance ensued and they were married in 1952, moving to the Kerr family farm just north of White Bear, Saskatchewan.
Bob and Betty. Betty and Bob. It has a certain lilt. It’s hard to tell the story of one without including the other so rarely were they apart. Upon marriage, Bob and Betty made the house on the farm a welcoming home and together they filled it with 4 children, music, stories, fun, laughter and love. Betty could drive the truck, dump the grain, cook the meals, manage 4 kids, and never keep the combine waiting. Farming, putting up food for long winters and all that comes with raising a family on a farm kept Betty busy. Still, she continued to substitute teach, she operated a kindergarten at the farm for a while, and both she and Bob were very involved with their communities. I don’t think there were many committees they didn’t sit on and if something was happening in White Bear, they usually had a hand in it. She was quick to either take the initiative or be an active helper. Betty was very dedicated to the United Church, leading Sunday School, playing piano and organ, singing in the choir and helping put on fowl suppers. She was a leader for Explorers, Messengers and CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training) and was involved with UCW (United Church Women). Winters found Betty and Bob curling, working at the rink, and making costumes for ice carnivals. Bonspiels and the many events at the hall took the edge off winters. Summer was busy planning sports days and making floats for parades. Whatever the season, Bob and Betty were rooted in service to their communities. Ensuring that White Bear stayed on the map was very important to Betty. With the help of others in the community there is now a commemorative school marker in place as well as the white bear statue.
The joy and pride of Betty’s life was family. Hers and Bob's families merged in such a way that it seemed they were destined to have all been brothers and sisters and great friends. They often celebrated holidays together and vacationed together, too. Each one of their homes would often be filled to the brim with relatives where raucous card games took place while kids filled laps or hovered over the corners of the table. Somehow meals were made and served among the clamour, which was as loud as it was fun. Many children at Clearwater called her and Bob Grandma and Grandpa and they delighted in these relationships.
Betty and Bob were immensely proud of their children and grandchildren and cherished time spent with them. They were always interested in their interests and were supportive and enthusiastic about all their varied activities, specific aptitudes, and academic endeavours. Betty loved sewing and knitting clothes for them and making them costumes. We all did jigsaw puzzles aplenty and played many different games, especially cards. Betty’s kids frequently brought their friends to the farm. Heather’s friends coined it “the magic farm”. Betty made several of her family members hand stitched quilts involving hours upon hours of hand embroidery and hand quilting and she infused all of them with meaning and love. Her heart’s desire was to make a quilt for everyone.
Betty and Bob valued their friends and neighbours and had a great deal of fun with them. Together they got up to many shenanigans and shared a lot of good times.
Betty had many creative talents and skills. She was a skilled and prolific seamstress, a fine knitter, and a creative crafter. It never occurred to her that something couldn't be done. We marvelled at how she could craft an outfit from 2 yards of fabric when the pattern called for 3. She usually had a tape measure around her neck and a row of pins sticking out the side of her mouth. Betty had a flare for fashion and she made us all so many beautiful clothes and amazing costumes. She could switch from sewing a torn swather canvas to tailoring a dress or suit to helping Jim reupholster his car without blinking an eye. Heather’s dolls had enviable wardrobes that included lined Chanel suits with matching hats, handbags and beautifully upholstered furniture. She sometimes made Heather and her dolls matching outfits. Betty herself had a lifelong love affair with dolls of all kinds, including paper ones. Many babies were gifted Betty's beautifully knit sweaters.
In later years Betty made beads and necklaces using church bulletins and tissue boxes and she would gift them to anyone interested. She also sold them, donating 100% of the proceeds to the United Church Mission and Service charity.
As family grew older and grandkids appeared, Bob and Betty orchestrated the building of a cabin at Clearwater Lake on a lot where previously they had kept a trailer. The cabin hosted family and friends throughout the summer and it remains a beloved family gathering spot full of happy memories. Betty delightedly ensured that there was always puffed wheat, rice krispie squares and a beverage ready for the many guests who stopped by.
Betty and Bob were fortunate to travel during winters to Mexico, Hawaii, and the United States, and to go on several cruises, most often with friends.
Not long after Bob’s passing in 2003, Betty moved from the farm to Kyle until her move to Saskatoon in 2013. She enjoyed the companionship of her devoted friend Garry Sisson. Betty returned to Kyle in 2017 and she spent her remaining years in the Kyle and District Health Centre where she received excellent, loving, and compassionate care until her passing.
Betty will be forever remembered not only for her gift of gab, but for her boundless love, generosity, kindness, beaming smile, ready laugh, energetic spirit, cheerful enthusiasm, inspired creativity, sense of adventure, reliability, resourcefulness, many talents, and for the music she loved. It was music that clearly inhabited her soul even as her mind and body slowly failed her. She loved and was loved.
A Memorial Service for Betty will be held in the Kyle Elks and Community Hall, 3rd Street, on Friday, November 3 at 2:00 PM. Interment will be in White Bear Cemetery at 12:00 noon prior to the service where she will again be next to Bob who has been waiting to place a hand over hers and call her “Betsy” before leading her to the great dance floor in the sky.
Betty's family will be forever grateful for the dedicated and compassionate personal care Mom received at the Kyle Health Centre. Arrangements have been entrusted to Shanidar Funeral Services in Rosetown, Saskatchewan and we thank them for their caring assistance.
If desired, memorial donations can be made to the Kyle and District Health Care Foundation Inc, Box 153, Kyle, SK S0L 1T0, or to the charity of your choice.