Elizabeth J Dees died peacefully on April 30th, 2023, at the age of 87, after a short illness, with her two children at her side. Betsy, as she was called, had a long life, well lived, beloved by her family and a valued friend to many, both nearby and from afar. Betsy spread cheer wherever she went and was blessed with innate curiosity and a strong sense of social justice. Her sister-in-law described her fondly as "the most good-natured person I've ever known." She had a self-deprecating and often mischievous sense of humor. Her creative, highly nurturing spirit was inspired by the arts, and she became a talented artist and teacher in her own right.
Betsy was born in Boston on December 5th, 1935, the daughter of Charles Peter Beauchamp Jefferys, master for more than 30 years at St. George's School, and his wife Anne Izard Shaw Jefferys. She had a happy childhood on the "Hilltop", shared with her brother Peter and her lifelong friend Joanie Wheeler, together known as the "heavenly twins". She attended Chatham Hall School in Virginia, earning her BA at Wheaton College in Norton, MA, and graduate school at Boston University, in art education. Betsy was a natural teacher, a profession she pursued at many points in her life whether at the Boston Children's Museum, in schools, at the Boys and Girls Club in RI, community centers in San Diego, or with family members of all generations.
Betsy married the Rev. Louis L Dees, a Unitarian minister, in 1965, living first in Dighton, MA and then in Newport., with a 7-year diversion to San Diego. They became the parents of two cherished daughters, Caroline Dees, partner to Charlie Sefranek, and Amanda, married to Scott Anderson. In 2000 the family moved to Portsmouth, RI. Betsy loved living nearby her daughters and enjoyed many wonderful trips with them, from Colorado to Mexico and most recently to France where she traveled down the Rhone, seeing art along the way.
Betsy was a woman of many gifts and interests. Active as a parishioner at Channing Memorial Church in Newport she had a strong social conscience, serving on committees focusing on providing for the homeless. Betsy was passionate about addressing affordable housing needs and was a generous supporter of the Church Community Housing Corporation in Newport. She loved birds, flowers, nature walks, and the seaside, with family visits to the beach every summer. An avid reader, both of fiction and non-fiction, she was a lively member of two book clubs. Her hospitality, especially her waffle breakfasts, were legendary among friends and the wider family.
Not least she loved art and was a skilled painter, both in oils and watercolors. She enjoyed painting "en plein air" and at the Newport Art Museum with artists, including Nancy Bredbeck and Ellen Bozyan. She even encouraged her (grumpy) brother to paint, throwing a box of watercolors at him on his birthday, saying "just go paint"- and he did.
In addition to Caroline, Amanda and Scott, Betsy is survived by her grand-daughter Kathryn, great grand-daughters Maddy and Lilly as well as her brother Peter Jefferys, his wife, Margaret Bozyan, their children David, Sarah and Anna, and their families. Betsy also leaves Anne Odenweller, and other cousins, as well as treasured friends who were like family.
A ceremony celebrating Betsy's life will be held at Channing Memorial Church, 135 Pelham St, Newport, RI, on August 12, 2023 at 11am.
Donations may be made in the memory of Elizabeth "Betsy" Dees to Newport Housing Hotline located at 40 Dr Marcus Wheatland Blvd, Newport, RI 02840. (401) 846-4896.
Rosemary Davidson wrote on May 23, 2023:
"I had the pleasure of knowing Betsy when I worked at the John F. Kennedy School in Middletown. I believe she was substitute teaching . She was always pleasant and interesting and I enjoyed our chats. May she rest in peace. My sincere sympathy to you all,"
Raymond and Deborah Dutra wrote on May 23, 2023:
"To The Family of Mrs. Dees,
Our sincere condolences to all.
It was always a better day after bumping into your Mom and servicing her vehicle (Toyota Camry) many years ago.
Raymond and Deborah Dutra
(Raymond?s Auto Sales)"