PORTAGE—Elizabeth R. “Betty” Hinkley, loving wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, passed away in the early morning hours of Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. She was 101 years old.
Betty was born Elizabeth Rowena Gustin in Stevens Point, Wis., on Jan. 18, 1920. She had two older brothers and as such, she learned about competition. She fondly recalled being thought of as “one of the Gustin boys” around her childhood home of Bangor, Wis. As a child she was proud of being able to hear the school bell from home, and then start running, and get to school on time! She was a helpful neighbor, carrying groceries for the elderly in town, earning 5¢ per trip. By 1929 she had saved $40, all of which she lost when the bank closed. She never forgot that.
Growing up, she spent summers at her grandfather’s farm near Bancroft where she was free to explore and develop her love of nature and sports activity. Later, this fondness became a summer job at Camp Hiwela near Wild Rose, where she taught swimming and canoeing. And as camp bugler, she would row out onto the lake and play Taps at sunset, to the delight of all.
She followed both of her parents into the teaching profession, receiving her training at Stevens Point, and then UW-Milwaukee. She had taught just one semester when in 1943 she agreed to marry her college sweetheart, Norman Hinkley, then a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. They lived on various Army bases in the South, and she enjoyed life as an officer’s wife, later revealing that many of her days were passed playing bridge.
After the Army they returned to Wisconsin. She and “Hink” started a family, and he taught music in Prairie du Chien schools. In 1952 they moved to Portage where he was band director until 1958. Then they moved to Green Bay, where Hink finished his career as band director at East High School.
But they loved Portage. And when they heard about a cottage on Swan Lake they quickly bought, thus beginning Betty’s 60+ years living lakeside. At first it was summers, but after Hink’s retirement they moved full time into the home they designed and built. What followed were 20 solid years of retirement, with them spending winters in Florida.
Betty became a widow in 2000, after which she lived year round at the lake. In addition to lovingly welcoming family and friends into her home, she adored Portage Country Club society, first as a golfer and later, a bridge player. She was active in Women’s Civic League, the Swan Lake Association and various human and animal welfare charities. She was an avid sports fan, who loved the Badgers, Bucks and Packers, and she spent hours and hours knitting hundreds of pairs of slippers, which she gladly gave away. And for years she made a daily routine (to “stave off Alzheimer’s”) of solving the newspaper crossword puzzle, in pen. As time rolled by she drew much support from the kindness of loving neighbors, and was able stay in her home through most of her 99th year of life. That’s when she decided to make the move to assisted living. She loved the Heritage House community and her caregivers. Betty’s family wishes to extend their deepest gratitude to Heritage House staff for their loving kindness during Betty’s 27 months with them.
Betty was preceded in death by her parents; both brothers; her husband; her daughter, Patty; and her son, John. She is survived by her daughter, Jane Richards, who lives near Seattle, Wash.; her son, James (Karen) of St. Paul, Minn.; along with six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Portage Center for the Arts or the International Crane Foundation. A memorial gathering is being planned for this May.
Pflanz Mantey Mendrala Funeral Home in Portage (www.pmmfh.com) is assisting the family.