Betty Jo Elizabeth Babbitt D'Mura passed on May 15, 2020. The second child of Joseph R. Babbitt Sr. and Viola Passey Babbitt, she was born on March 31, 1920 in Mesa, Arizona. The family story is that Viola, against her husband's wishes, chose “Betty Jo” for the birth certificate. Joe, astonished, baptized her “Elizabeth Viola”. Betty Jo's “given” name has been in question ever since.
Betty Jo grew up in Flagstaff, when boardwalks, not sidewalks, lined the downtown streets and air conditioning, used when visiting grandparents in Mesa, was provided by hanging wet sheets on clothes lines and sleeping between them. As a child she'd take a book and an apple, climb a tree, and spend the day reading. As an adult, she often did the same, but in a comfortable chair. Her insatiable appetite for books continued until her eyesight failed in her nineties.
She attended St Anthony's elementary school, Flagstaff; Immaculate Heart High School, Hollywood, CA; Arizona State Teachers College, Flagstaff; and completed her undergraduate degree in Education at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Later, she earned her Master's Degree of Education from NAU, Flagstaff.
While attending college she met Michael D'Mura, of Gary, Indiana. Their introduction came at a social where his paper plate of spaghetti failed and found its way onto Betty Jo's dress. Once introduced they were inseparable. After graduation they married in October 1941, at Nativity BVM Church, Flagstaff. The couple moved to Gary, where Mike was employed as an industrial engineer at Carnegie Illinois Steel Company. World War II kept them there when steel production was designated an “essential service” for the war effort. In the fall of 1943 Betty Jo returned to Flagstaff for the birth of their first child, Michael Robert (Bobby). She returned to Chicago for the duration of the war even more homesick for Arizona.
World War II ended, and an opportunity opened in Betty Jo's family's business. The three moved back to Flagstaff; Betty Jo managed the house and Mike managed a saw mill for Babbitt Brothers Trading Company. Two more children followed, Elizabeth Carol (1946) and John Martin (1950).
Despite caring for three kids and raising pet sheep, Betty Jo developed outlets for her creativity and interests. She wrote poetry (published in the local newspaper), took up oil painting (sold several landscapes), cast ceramics (kiln on the back porch) and became an avid bird watcher. She counted birds for Cornell University's Ornithology Department. She collected unfortunate wild birds, the victims of unseen windows, and froze them for the Museum of Northern Arizona (care was required selecting a snack from the family freezer).
Unexpectedly, John's third grade teacher left St. Anthony's School mid-semester. An immediate replacement was needed. Betty Jo put her Education degree to work, and began her teaching career. Teaching appealed to her and she was good at it. This led to a position teaching special reading at W. F. Killip Elementary school. Around this time, the couple were surprised by their fourth child, Paul Richard (1962). “PR” extended their parenting years into their sixties.
This rich family life drastically changed when Mike, after 43 years together, passed away in October 1984. Betty Jo explored another love, traveling. A trip years earlier rafting through Glenn Canyon (now Lake Powell) lead to rafting trips through the Grand Canyon. She enjoyed a cabin in Cholla Bay, Mexico for 40 years, traveled by rail through Mexico, and experienced a total eclipse of the sun in Southern Baja in 1991. Combining travel with “birding” she sailed the Caribbean aboard the Sea Cloud (a 1920's luxury yacht turned cruise ship); stayed in a US/Panamanian army reconnaissance tower turned eco-hotel (a three-toed sloth hung directly outside the window – all seven days); viewed the Blue Footed Booby on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; and saw birds in Europe and across the United States. Betty Jo lived a full life.
Betty Jo was the last of the Joseph Babbitt Sr. children to pass and was preceded in death by her husband, Michael D'Mura. She is survived by her children Michael Robert (Pam) Peoria; Elizabeth Carol (Dan) Sierra Vista; John Martin Peoria; and Paul Richard (Janell) Glendale; ten grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren.
No funeral is planned at this time. The family suggests that if you are moved to do so, please donate to the Nativity BVM Restoration Project, www.savenativitybvm.
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