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Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Nietmann

Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Nietmann

1940 – 2018

Within the last ten years Betty had started to write her own obituary. She wrote: “I was born in Los Angeles in 1940 to my parents, Dorothea and Russell Clay. My father was a Methodist pastor. I had one sister and one brother. We moved to Alhambra, CA, then later to Whittier, where I finished at Whittier High. I went then to the College of the Pacific in Stockton where I met my husband, William Nietmann. We were married September 3, 1960. I completed my final two years of college in 1962 at Los Angeles State with a degree in elementary education. I then taught first grade in Pomona, CA while my husband completed degrees at the School of Theology at Claremont and the Claremont Graduate School. We moved to Flagstaff, AZ in 1966 where Bill taught philosophy at Northern Arizona University.

“We have three children: Rebecca, Rachel, and Elizabeth (Lisa). Becky is married to Michael Hailey and lives in Florida with their children, Joshua and Grace. Rachel is married to Dennis Richardson and lives in Walla Walla, WA with their children, Samuel, Aaron, and Ember. Lisa is married to Paul Good and lives in the Washington, D. C. area with their sons, William and Ryan.” These would be the sufficient highlights of her life, she thought.

Characteristically, Betty drew attention away from herself. Others saw her differently. She was a personification of “Life Is Good” tee-shirts. This is what one person wrote in her sympathy card: “Betty made everyone feel welcomed and appreciated, no matter their age. She was the most humble person yet at the same time one of the most incredible compassionate, generous, and thoughtful people I’ve ever met. She was incredibly loyal to her friends and gave everyone around her a living, practical example of what it means to care for others. She also had a wonderful, quirky sense of humor; she disarmed people with her kindness and loved them just as they were, without exception. She chose to see the best in all, to believe in the best in all. She inspired everyone who met her to be the best possible version of him/herself that they could be.”

She was a twig bent this way by her parents. Russell and Dorothy (as Russell called his wife) exemplified virtues wrought in their religious faith. They were born in Ohio around 1900, their own Ohio family roots established in a mid-1700s American migration into that frontier region. When they married, times were changing—depression, world war, social unrest. Their deep roots in the Methodist church invited attitudes and actions in the implementation of a vital Christian faith. It’s an outlook which yet alive in a caring Methodism. It’s what Betty grew up with.

When in later life Betty returned to the classroom she loved, she became a teacher’s aide devoted to special needs children at Marshall Elementary School. Upon her retirement her outreach continued through a sorority known by the initials P.E.O. It enables women who are seeking to improve their lives find that pathway through education.

Betty was a vibrant, healthy person in this, the last year of her life . . . except for a cough which did not fit patterns doctors were trained to see. Only in her final two weeks was a virulent type of cancer discovered in her lungs. Even then the wheels of medicine turned much too slowly to sustain her valiant effort to regain strength necessary for treatment. She returned home to die in the early morning of January 30, her daughters and husband at her side.

Those desiring to honor her memory may offer gifts to Marshall Elementary School, 850 North Bonito Street, Flagstaff, AZ, 86001. Mention Betty Nietmann’s name and whether it is a gift or a tax credit donation. (Arizona taxpayers may credit the gift against taxes that are owed the state.) Direct the gift to one of the following four school funds: Educational Enrichment, Arts Emphasis, Science Emphasis, or Fieldtrips.

The service celebrating Betty’s life will be held on April 7 at 10:00 a. m. in the Trinity Heights United Methodist Church at the top of 4th Street.  Memories and condolences may be shared with her family directly or online at

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the life of: Elizabeth Ann (Betty) Nietmann
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