Global Ministries is saddened to learn of the death of Betty Avery
Elizabeth (Betty) W. Avery
March 16, 1921 – May 3, 2016
Elizabeth (Betty) W. Avery, 95, of Peterborough, NH, died peacefully on May 3, 2016, at Summerhill Assisted Living in Peterborough, New Hampshire, surrounded by her family.
Betty was born in Highland Park, Michigan on March 16, 1921, the eldest child of Carl Kingsley Wirth and Cora Georgiana (Meyer) Wirth. Betty attended Michigan State College for a degree in social work. Afterwards, she enrolled in Hartford Seminary, furthering her interest in a service-oriented career. Her Master’s in 1947 timed well with a new marriage to C. Robert Avery, a fellow student deeply interested in returning to Turkey after a three-year stint teaching at Robert College in Istanbul.
The couple served in Turkey as missionaries under the auspices of the United Church Board for World Ministries, a predecessor body of what is today known as Global Ministries. An excerpt from a talk Betty gave in the 1980’s shared details of the early days of their voyage to Turkey: “In 1949, Bob Avery and I, with our one-year-old son, boarded an Egyptian ship with six now life-long friends and sailed for three weeks to Turkey. What a trip of homesick feelings, strange food, learning Turkish, port stops in six countries, and a growing anticipation to meet a distinctly different culture.”
Bob and Betty worked in Tarsus for five years and then moved to Istanbul where she became more involved in fundraising, women’s health issues like family planning, training basic skills for outside employment, and education around core nutritional needs for young children. Sensitive to her position as a guest in her host country Betty honored the cultural tradition of hospitality and loyalty and strove to convey that always in her relationships and work.
Betty’s husband, Bob, died unexpectedly at 61, leaving her a young widow at 58. In due course, Betty focused her interests on roles in the Mission that assisted new personnel with their adjustments to life in Turkey. She taught her new colleagues to be bold, sensitive, and always respect the differences between people.
Betty eventually retired to Antrim, New Hampshire in 1988 and continued her life’s work of helping others. Her life was full of many good things including renewed family bonds, lectures in Chautauqua, New York, singing in a nearby choral group, volunteering at a local family support center and lending her enthusiasm to many other programs.
In 2008, Betty’s skills at adapting to change were utilized once again. At 87, she moved to Blue Hill, Maine when her son, David, and his wife, Renee, rejoined the Foreign Service. There, she lived in a cottage built by her youngest son, Richard, for four years. During this time, she forged new friendships in the local church, found additional projects for her time and energy, and enjoyed time with family.
Betty’s final move at 91, to Summerhill Assisted Living Peterborough, NH, came on the heels of challenges with memory and association. Not long after she moved there, she had made a name for herself as an intrepid walker, leaf gatherer, and chief appreciator of nature’s wondrous beauty. She visited her nearby daughter, Frances, often. She was always eager to participate in farm life, watch any heavy equipment at work, and gather apples for the sheep.
Elizabeth is survived by her five children; Robert Avery of Colorado Springs, CO; David Avery of Portsmouth, NH; Frances Greene of Peterborough, NH; Richard Avery of Blue Hill, ME and Dorothy Ener of Istanbul, Turkey. She also is missed by her seven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and sister, Margaret Frey, of Travers City, Michigan. She is predeceased by her brother, John Wirth.
The family suggests that contributions in Betty’s name be made to: ‘The Grapevine’, PO Box 637, Antrim, NH 03440. To view an online obituary or to leave the family a condolence, please visit https://www.jellisonfuneralhome.com/notices/Elizabeth-Avery .