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BETTY MCKASSON

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Birth Date: 1917
Birth Place: Des Moines, Iowa
Passed Away: 2003

Honored By

Donor names:   Sarah McKasson
Date submitted: October 24, 2006
Gift: Brick Paver - small
Location on plaza map: B4
Areas of Achievement: Activism, Adventure, Arts, Community Building, Home Making, Volunteer, Athletics
 
Betty was born Elizabeth Ann Bolton and raised by her parents, Alice and Lewis, to be musical, athletic and bright in the green wooded hills of Des Moines, Iowa. She followed all three of those threads in her life, but what stands out to me is the manner in which she did it—every day, without calling attention to herself—living with courage, beauty, curiosity, and commitment.

In 1935 she took a train west to begin four years at the University of Arizona, in hopes that she’d be able to study voice without debilitating allergies. The next three years her father let her drive a Ford to school. She’d pick up a sorority sister in St. Louis and traverse the wide open spaces. She graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, lettering in tennis, with a major in voice, and a love for the mountains and the desert.

Betty returned to Des Moines in 1939 to help run Bolton and Hay and make her beloved Dad proud, and soon fell in love and married my father, Omer Daniel (“OD”) McKasson before he was shipped out overseas in WWII. When the war was over they settled down to live out their romance. They fixed up an old farm house and had four children—Mike, Molly, Steve, and Sarah. They were devoted to each other and active in Des Moines society through groups like the Symphony, the Junior League, journalism organizations, tennis teams and church choirs, until my father died of lung cancer in 1951. She was left not only heartbroken, but with four kids ages 18 months to 7 years, the oldest of whom suffered serious diabetes and asthma. She continued being active in the community—started a woman’s chorus, sang lead alto in the choir—but raising us was her main job.

In 1958, hoping to help her oldest, she left everything familiar and drove across country again to Tucson, this time with four kids and a cat in tow. Mike slowly got stronger and for the next 35 years my mother created a wonderful life radiating out from the same house on 9th street. Everything was new—she went to work, she struggled alone with family challenges, joined a new choir and symphony guild, coached tennis, became active in the women’s newspaper, in women’s politics and advocacy—but she did everything with the same old courage, beauty, curiosity, and commitment. Sometimes she was honored for her work, but she was content to be the beloved “matron” of our family. She traveled with and celebrated life with all of us, creating enough memorable adventures to fill all our hearts to overflowing. If a grandchild was rowing in New Haven, or playing soccer in South Carolina or Pennsylvania or piano in El Con Mall, she was there. My mother encouraged us all to love life without fretting about loss—a lesson she knew very well. We honor our mother for the undying and joyous integrity of her inimitable life.

-- Testimonial submitted by Molly McKasson-Morgan (daughter)


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Betty McKasson died before she could enjoy the company she was going to keep on the Women’s Plaza of Honor. She had lived a long life, much of it in Arizona, where she studied at the University from 1936-1940, as both a music major and a lettered athlete! Music stayed with her life long as did her love of her husband who died two years after the birth of her fourth child, causing her to redirect her life at age 41.

Betty returned to Tucson in 1958 to make a life for herself and her children and what a life it was. Her love of music and of tennis remained, but once the women’s movement made its way West in the 1970s. she became an ardent and non-apologetic feminist.

For fifteen years, she was the Treasurer of The Clarion, Tucson’s feminist newspaper, and worked as a volunteer at the Southern Arizona Women’s Foundation and at the YWCA. Her daughter, Molly McKasson, herself an ardent feminist, was a member of the Tucson City Council, and sometime candidate for Mayor. Her daughter, Sarah McKasson (Cowburn) also toiled for the Clarion.

She often despaired of her Republican Party membership, but then, she would say, they need my voice, too, and my point of view.

Welcome Betty to the Women’s Plaza of Honor. We miss you already.

-- Sheila Tobias, Jan. 2006