Once Upon A Time – The Life Of Betty (Potter) Willson #7


The following is a transcription of over a hundred handwritten pages of my mother’s remembrances journaled in a notebook over a span of years after reaching the age of 90. The words and sentence structure for the most part remain as originally written vividly projecting her personality, the flavor of the landscape and her view of the times.


The last two years Bob could not walk more than 10 steps without sitting down.  Towards the end I did most of the yard work, perhaps I should say all.  I also painted the deck, shoveled  snow, brought in the wood.  Bob was sill driving but he couldn’t see to good.  In 1990 Nancy bought a house on Parrott Ferry Road in Columbia, it was  large enough that Bob and I could live with her and could stay most of the time with her.  The Christmas of 91 Peter Hill called us and told us a water pipe had froze and broke in the cabin.  We went to the cabin, water had come up two feet inside before he noticed it.  Everything was soaked, it took a month before we got it so we could live in it, the insurance took care of it and they hired some people to do the work.


Bob died on May 23 1992 after making the best love we had in years.  He ask me to sleep with him the night of the 22nd.  I had been sleeping in the other room because he was so weak and sick.  We had come up to the cabin several days before and the trip was hard on him.  He should have not been driving although our fairly new, ( I think I bought it new in 87) Chevrolet Blazer Sport Wagon was easy to drive even though  it didn’t have an automatic transmission.


We slept and when we woke up we made love.  (Nancy and Dad had bought some Porno TV tapes, learned things we never knew.  I got up to clean when I heard Bob give a gasp’s, he was half on and half off the bed trying to put his shorts on.  All I remember is I pushed him back on the bed and he wasn’t breathing, I tried to give mouth to mouth resuscitation but screamed for Peter Hill and he came.  I called the ambulance, they took him to the hospital, I went with them.  The doctor came and said there was nothing they could do, I called Nancy, she was there in no time at all.



He is buried in the veterans section of a cemetery at Martel.  All the family came and the Eastlicks.  Bob bought his burial plot in 87 when he learned he had only five years.  The cemetery was being started and they offered a plot for $50 dollars.  I think the most enlighten moment and sure Bob was watching was when Mary’s little Katie danced around and around his coffin during the service.


Nancy had already bought the house in Columbia and we were packing up to move in with her when he died.  After the funeral I went home with Gary for a month.  I flew home having given him the Blazer that I had bought with the rest of my stock from Capwells.  The girls helped put the Cabin up for sale, it sold in two days for $89,000.  Nancy showed me how to invest it and I moved in with her in August.  The money from the sale of the house in Oakland went mostly for Bob’s doctors’ bills as he didn’t have insurance.  The first thing I did was to buy me a new bedroom set.  The second was redesign Nancy’s kitchen, then  I put a window seat in the bedroom.  When Kay’s oldest children had left home she divorced John, to many years of abuse.  She then meant and married Don DaValle.  She found a pearl of a nice man and husband every women dreams about.  We had thanksgiving at the DaValle’s Pine Mt Lake house with Kay’s girls family, Don’s mother and father and all of Nancy’s children.



I joined the Docents at the state park here in Columbia.  Worked and chaired the museum desk for two years and have been teaching 4th graders on field trips ever since.  Was Docent of the Year in 95, also 2001 and love working with children. Still  help each year at tent town and lamplighters.

Nancy and her boss Debbie decided that Debbie’s father and I should get together.  He had been a widower for years and I for two and half years.  Tom Fleming was an answer to every widow’s prayer.  Big handsome Teddy Bear, a gentleman all the time, loves children,  yet was a man’s man.  I think we clicked right away.  We meant in November, he brought me flowers and Nancy,  Debbie and I went to the fairgrounds Christmas bazaar.  He gave me a white teddy bear and 5 lbs of chocolates for Christmas.  Nancy and I went to New Year’s party and meant his children and brother.  They were great and very nice to me.  That year we went on a cruise to Mexico.  Went to visit his brother in the Desert in February and we went to Detroit when his son received the March of Dimes highest award and medal for the work he did with the paralyzed veterans.  We took cruise to the Caribbean, went through the Panama Canal.  We saw the desert in Bloom.  Were guest of the 96 Paralympics in Atlanta where we mingles with the Vice President, people running for president, governors, queens and bigwigs?  We stayed at his son’s house.  On the way we visited Polly and Roy Spears.  We saw paralyzed athletes doing the impossible,  some even doing better than those participating in the regular 96 Olympics.


We drove home through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  I loved San Antonio.  Tom always went first class.  I was always treated like I was a precious jewel to him.  Then he got diabetes and congested heart failure.  Once we spent three weeks at the Legacy in Reno when his brother had a kidney removed,  waitress’s would fight to get him at their table.  A good tipper.  He had a 48 dodge in mint condition we rode in parades.  Took a trip with his niece and her husband in a $250,000 motor home to Montana to visit another niece who lives in Plains Montana.  Fished on a huge lake in a 35 foot sail boat.  What a wonderful 7 1/2 years we had.   The last two years we didn’t do much traveling.  I would go down and spend a couple of weeks a month with him.



I’ve taken a few trips one in 2000.  Tom didn’t go, it was to Germany , Austria and part of Switzerland to a passion play put on every ten years and then to England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  I made two trips with Nancy, one to “Alaska from San Francisco and one on a train to Yellowstone and the Grand titans.  Both marvels. I joined a separate check travel club and did a lot fun trips with them.  Every year the snow train to Reno and the race in Albany every spring.  Tom and I took a lot of their trips.  I would go back to Polly and Roy’s every year where I always feel welcome and needed.  Polly not doing so good, I still keep in contact with the Aussies that were in charge of my tour of England Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  I would not have known what a pub was like if not for them.  I have attended a few high school reunions.  Went with Janice to the Rose Parade.   The last three months Tom was in and out of the hospital.  I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with him.  Life almost came to end when I lost him.  Since Tom’s death I’ve slowed down


On my 80th birthday I decided we need a family reunion.  So I invited well in advance all the relatives and family.   Come early, stay late invitational, they did.  We slept under the trees, in trailers and cars.  All the Eastlicks except Johnny showed.  Bill Potter and his wife, Bob’s sister Graces daughter Lorraine and Walt.  Alice’s family.  It was great.  Poor Nan she says never again, but perhaps when I kick the bucket she can throw a big wake.


I am so proud of my daughters, my son, my grandchildren and a great great grandchildren.  On the 2nd of July 2007 I got my first great great grandson and this year I will have two more I know I ‘m bossy, determine to get my own way no matter what and I am very inpatient.  Perhaps that was what caused all the fights with Bob.  I’m very proud, my damnable pride.  I live with Nancy, gamble at Black Oaks with Kay, see my sister Alice (95 years young) at least twice a year and I am a Red Hatter. When bored (very seldom) I will day dream house plans that will never be built.  Almost got one built for Kay in Groveland.  They even blue printed it but Groveland wanted a fire engine to be bought by Don and Kay so that scratched it.  They sold the Groveland in town land and built Yosemite Rose B & B on Ferretti Rd.



I try to keep busy at the park.  I have survived cancer, try and help at the Kay and Don’s B & B and love doing yard work.  I managed to get my bathroom enlarged by taking Nancy’s closet, adding  a bathroom to guest house, adding a whirl pool and walk in set in shower to Nancy’s bathroom.  My yard is my prize, I go on small trips with the seniors or anyone else.  Looking over the past years I guess I am really a lucky person.  I have good friends, loved two good men, had wonderful parents and can’t ask for a better family.


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