Elizabeth Washington

Obituary of Elizabeth Washington

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Elizabeth “Betty” DeMaria Washington 


“Cent’ Anni!” is a traditional Italian birthday toast, a wish for “100 Years.” And for most of us, it is simply that-  a wish. But, for Betty Washington of Mebane, a proud Italian-American, this wish came  true on February 17th, 2022 when she celebrated her 100th birthday! But, as was her way, Betty wasn’t content to stop there; she made it to 101 before peacefully departing this life on May 28th, 2023. Born Elizabetta Maria DeMaria on February 17, 1922, in the factory town of Meriden, Connecticut, Betty was the fifth of seven daughters of Salvatore and Teresa DeMaria. Her parents,  immigrants from the tiny Calabrian mountain village of San Giovanni di Gerace, arrived at Ellis Island at the turn of the 20th Century, making Betty a first- generation American. When she arrived at the start of “The Roaring Twenties” it was into a world of great change. WWI and the Spanish Flu Epidemic were only a few years past. Just two years before, American Women had finally won the right to vote. Automobiles, telephones, electric lights, and indoor plumbing were beginning to be more commonplace. Factory jobs in Meriden were plentiful, and most of Betty’s family worked in one, as she herself would in later years. Home was a two-family house on Botsford Street, the upstairs filled with her parents, her paternal “Nonni,” and her six sisters.  Downstairs lived an uncle, aunt, and six cousins, so she always had plenty of playmates. Betty and her sisters thrived on fresh produce, chickens, and eggs her father raised, which her mother turned into delicious Italian meals on the old wood stove. But then came The Great Depression, and Betty’s elementary school years were tougher. She often reminisced about those lean years- how everyone had to “make do'', how lucky they were to have a garden and plenty to eat, and were grateful that her father had a good factory job. In those days, many young people didn’t go to school past the eighth grade, but Betty fought to go to high school . She won her fight, and was the first in her family to graduate from high school: Meriden High, Class of 1940. This was the “Big Band Era,” a time of swing and the jitterbug, and Betty loved it all! She was a great dancer, knew all the latest steps, never lacked a dancing partner, and could dance all night. But it was a tall Irishman with two left feet who finally won her heart. They married at the start of WWII, and both went to work in local defense factories. Betty was a “Rosie the Riveter,” making bomb site ball bearings for American bombers, a job she was very proud of!  She had many interesting stories of the War years, and happily shared them with anyone who asked. Born just two years after women won the vote, Betty enthusiastically cast her very first vote for Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1944 Presidential election. She was always up on current events and politics, and was proud to say that she voted in every election. After the War, Betty and Tom had two daughters, Donna and Susan, but in 1954, Tom tragically passed away, leaving Betty a widow at just thirty years old. But life went on, and three years later, Betty met and married Ernest "George" Washington, a sergeant in the US Air Force. This marked the beginning of Betty’s new life away from Meriden, and her family. Air Force life took her from Maine- where another daughter Lori was born- to Austin, Texas, and finally to Goldsboro, North Carolina, where she and George settled after his retirement. Wherever she went, Betty made it home, decorating the house, planting flowers, making friends, and doing all kinds of volunteer work. Never one to sit still for long, Betty always stayed busy, well into her nineties. In 2005, George passed away, and several years later, Betty moved from Goldsboro to Mebane to be closer to her three daughters. Much to her frustration, she had to give up driving at ninety eight, and reluctantly sold her car. Still, Betty continued to live independently, with the help of her daughters and several caregivers, until January of this year. Betty moved to her new home at Mebane Ridge Assisted Living Center where she made many new friends. Yes, she had slowed down a bit,  but few could outrun her as she zipped up and down the halls with the help of her fancy new rollator! She often kept busy knitting, a craft she learned back in 1942, and gave out countless “Scrubbies” to anyone who wanted one. Always a bookworm, Betty loved to read, especially biographies, and kept her daughters busy ordering the latest ones for her. She kept up with politics and current events, and was never shy about voicing her opinions on both subjects! Being able to spend time with her family  was a special blessing to Betty. She especially enjoyed visits with her “granddog” Digger the dachshund! Betty’s three daughters, son-in-law, two grandsons, and four great grandchildren are forever grateful to have had her in their lives for so long. All who knew and loved  Betty always described her as “amazing”, “a force of nature” and a “living history book.” In over a century of living, she certainly proved that she was. In her last days, Betty often said that she was just tired, and wanted to go to “that peaceful place.” And on Sunday, May 28th, in her own time, and in her own way, that’s exactly what she did. Betty is survived by her younger sister Carol Iben of Meriden, Connecticut, daughters Donna Artis (Don) and Susan Martin both of Mebane, daughter Lori Washington of Carrboro, NC, grandsons Paul Martin (Jennifer) of Kernersville, NC, and Adam Artis (Erica) of Berwyn Heights, MD, and four great-grandchildren: Carolyn and Holly Martin, and Archer and Audrey Artis. Walker Funeral Home in Mebane is handling arrangements and interment will be in Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, DC at a later date. Betty's family gratefully acknowledges Mebane Ridge Assisted Living, Cone ARMC Hospital, and especially Hospice Home of Burlington, NC for the compassionate care she received in the last days of her life. Anyone wishing to honor Betty, is encouraged to send a gift in her memory to Hospice Home, AuthorCare Collective, 2500 Summit Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27405, or to The Animal Protection Society of Caswell County, PO Box 193, 836 County Home Road, Yanceyville, NC 27379

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