Elizabeth M. Galloway passed away on Sept. 28, 2018. Condensing her life into a few column inches is a challenge, for there are the facts of her life and there are the stories.
Elizabeth loved a good story.
Hers began June 8, 1933, in Newark, N.J., where she was born to Kurt and Elise Weber. Her growing-up years in Irvington, N.J., revolved around her parents’ church, a Methodist congregation made up of many immigrant German families. Elizabeth shared stories of what it was like as a first-generation child of immigrants — the push and pull between two cultures. When Elizabeth was 12, her brother Walter was born. He had Down syndrome, which set her up for a lifetime of appreciating those who had a different way of being in the world and the unique gifts they could offer. The church, her German heritage and parents, and her brother’s life challenges inspired many great stories from this time in her life.
Elizabeth was called to study nursing, which used her gifts well. She trained at Orange Memorial Hospital in Orange, N.J., and graduated in 1954 with her RN degree. Her stories of nursing school escapades and mishaps revealed her sense of adventure, humor and ability to connect with people — whether with those who were to become lifelong friends or shorter encounters that imprinted on her what it meant to provide comfort and ease suffering.
In 1955, Elizabeth married Fred Galloway. They lived in Maryland while he finished his Army service. There, they welcomed their first daughter, Kathleen. Once discharged, Fred began his career in the U.S. Forest Service, which launched them westward to Ketchikan in the Territory of Alaska. Their son, Bill, was born there. The Forest Service life was one of frequent moves. Their next stop was Seward, Alaska, where their first set of twins, Dorothy and Ann, were born. From Seward, they moved to Moose Pass, Alaska. Elizabeth’s stories of their life in Alaska, from month-long power outages to snow drifts high as the house to landing a huge cod when she was nine months pregnant, imparted how much she loved her years there.
From Alaska, Elizabeth and Fred trekked to Great Falls, Mont., which is where their second set of twins, Susan and Kurt, made a grand entrance. The twins’ combined weight, over 17 pounds, put them in the hospital’s record books; local radio coverage gained the family at least 15 minutes of fame.
In 1968, Elizabeth’s family moved to Kettle Falls, Wash., and, in 1972, Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Life in small towns suited Elizabeth. Neighbors became fast friends. People responded to her gift of being so present with them in appreciating the ordinary moments of life; she was never too busy for that cup of coffee with a friend. In each town, she found a Methodist church to join. Also, in each town she worked at the small community hospitals where her competence and caring nature could shine.
As her children grew, she and Fred stressed the importance of reading and education — the first stop in any new town was the library. But, more important than that, they stressed the power of family bonds. Dinner at 6 p.m. was the rule where stories of each person’s day were shared — stories that regularly inspired teasing, debates, unsolicited commentary and lots of laughter; stories that created a lifelong sense of belonging and of what it means to hold together.
In the early 1980s, Elizabeth experienced two life-changing events — cancer and divorce. She survived both, thanks to her faith, family and friends. In 1985, she moved to Oak Harbor. She had always wanted to live on an island. She scouted Vashon, Bainbridge and the San Juans, but Whidbey Island spoke to her.
She built a life in Oak Harbor around her work at Whidbey Medical Clinic as Dr. Bailey’s nurse. She also found her beloved church community at First United Methodist Church. She made many friends in Oak Harbor through her singles and coffee groups, through the Pandorans and through the Whidbey Playhouse where she acted in several plays and had season tickets. Once she retired, she volunteered at the Oak Harbor schools where they called her the Reading Angel.
She kept active in her church’s programs, especially the We Care group. She loved to walk and hike, especially Ebey’s Bluff. She loved to read. She loved dogs. She loved being a redhead. She loved her Toyota Tercel. She loved music, especially Leonard Cohen and Willie Nelson. And she loved to travel — a trip to Germany and Spain was a highlight after her retirement.
She treasured her nine grandchildren and made many trips to Seattle, Port Hadlock, Las Vegas, North Carolina, Georgia, and even Ireland to spend time with them. She was their beloved Miss Betty. She loved that she got to add Great Grandma to her resume.
Thanks to all whose cards, visits and calls throughout her final illness that let her know how much she was loved. There is no way to put into words the ways she will be missed. Her sadness about leaving this world was that she wouldn’t get to see how her beloved family’s and friends’ stories turned out. But family and friends can be sustained by memories of her and the stories they shared with her while she was here. And by her belief that though her story on earth would end, she’d start a new one in heaven.
Elizabeth was preceded in death by her parents Kurt and Elise Weber and her brother Walter.
She is survived by her six children, Kathleen (Mark), Bill (Beck), Dorothy (Jaime), Ann (Mike), Susan (Jose) and Kurt (Greta). She is also survived by her nine grandchildren, Elizabeth, Anand (Alyssa), Bram (Jessica), Wyatt, Genevieve (Stephen), Karl, Aidan (Trish), Ian (Shelby) and Emma Rose. And her great granddaughter, Breya (Bram and Jessica).
Donations may be made in Elizabeth’s name to WAIF. Or a charity of choice. Or just as important to Elizabeth would be that those who loved her take time to share a story with someone. Sit over a cup of coffee or glass of wine to talk. Be present and listen. And, most of all, laugh.