- 65 years old
- Date of birth: Sep 19, 1949
- Date of passing: Jan 23, 2015
Betsy Pendleton Wong (65), of Champaign, Illinois, passed away peacefully on the morning of January 23, 2015 at Carle Foundation Hospital, Urbana, after a courageous fight with cancer. A celebration of her life will be held on Saturday, February 7, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. at the I-Hotel located at 1900 South First Street, Champaign, Illinois, 61820.
Betsy was born on September 19, 1949 in Urbana, Illinois, the daughter of John and Eleanor Pendleton. She met her soul mate and love of her life Kam Wu Wong on a float trip down the Grand Canyon and married him on August 8, 1970, in Champaign, Illinois. She is survived by her loving husband, two sons David (Adriane) of LaGrange, IL, and Michael (Jennifer) of Elgin, IL, a granddaughter, Allyssa, and two grandsons Devin, and Blake, her father, John (the late Eleanor) Pendleton, and siblings, Don (Julienne) Pendleton, of Marshall, IL; Pamela (Robert) Thickens, of Mequon, WI; Kip (Anne) Pendleton, of Woodbury, MN; and Sandie (Terese) Pendleton, of Shorewood, WI. Also surviving are eleven nieces and nephews, three grand nieces and nephews and her beloved dog Bon-Bon.
Betsy received a B.A. degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1971, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Illinois College of Law in 1974. After graduating from law school, Betsy joined the law firm of Phebus, Tummelson, Bryan & Knox and subsequently opened her own law office and continued practicing law in Champaign County for 40 years. Betsy practiced law with tenacity, a passion for justice, remarkable ingenuity and a deep loyalty to clients, often forging friendships with those whom she represented. Betsy had a thirst for knowledge that led her to spend an endless number of hours reading books and frequenting the public library. Betsy loved to travel making trips throughout North and Central Americas, Europe and Asia. Her love to travel was motivated by her desire to learn about different cultures. Her other hobbies included gardening, seashell collecting, ballroom dancing, hiking and spending time in nature.
She enjoyed making new friends and was actively involved in the community through serving on the boards of United Way, The Reading Group, Community Foundation, University Place Christian Church, and the University Club, being a member of P.E.O., mentoring of students and adults, and serving as a host family for foreign students.
She was a loving daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, sister and aunt, great friend, good cook, talented gardener and flower arranger and dedicated attorney. In recent years she particularly enjoyed watching her grandchildren grow and playing with them while relaxing at her sanctuary lake house in Shangri La.
To help remember her, Betsy would have asked that you plant a flower in your garden in her memory or make a donation to one of her favorite groups: the Champaign Reading Group (readinggroup.org), United Way of Champaign County (uwayhelps.org), the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois (cfeci.org), the Urbana Parks Foundation (urbanaparks.org) or the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (donate.lls.org). Morgan Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
"Betsy, our hearts still ache. We miss you dearly. We love you!"
"To my sweet sweet neighbor, Betsy.....you have not been forgotten,
not by a long shot. In my mind's eye, I still see your white laundry flapping in the breeze in the back yard (and I think...how does she find the time to do that?), I see your grape vines on the fence and remember when you had them yielding so nicely, I know enough to give away my surplus plants and flowers because you taught me by doing it, I remember so many of the books you had us read in book club and was grateful for your unique taste (Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address!!!) and many more memories. Thanks for sharing your life with us. You are sorely missed. You were a shining star."
"My brother Mike and I were so blessed to be raised by such amazing parents who surrounded us with love, rich experiences and all of the wonderful people filling this room today.
The morning before Mom passed away, I was sitting with her in the hospital room as she peacefully slept. Her soothing meditative music was playing softly and the light of the morning sun was gently glowing through the windows. Out of the quiet, Mom said from her sleep with her signature assertive and confident tone, “Okay, let’s try again!”
Yep, that was classic Mom. I’ve been hearing that simple phrase from her my entire life…. actually probably before I was even born!
“Mom, it’s the middle of the summer and you are still giving us daily lists of chores to do. We are never going to get these done in time to play with our friends!”… “Okay, let’s try again!”
“Mom, why are the cookies that I am baking for the high school bake sale completely melting in the oven?”….. “Did you add the flour? Okay, let’s try again!”
“Mom, are you serious… you want to add smocking to the front of all of the brides’ maid purses that you and Adriane have spent the last 3 weekends on already… do you even know how to smock?”…. “Okay, let’s try again!”
“Mom, is that the same unicorn backgammon cross stich project that you’ve been working on for my wedding gift since I was 5?”… “I’m trying again!”
Mom knew, with 1000% certainty that we could do anything, just as long as we put our minds into it with a positive ‘can do’ mindset AND we were willing to work hard and to try-and-try again until we accomplished the task or objective. It was not easy… for her or for us! I know I was not exactly the best listener or follower of instructions…Adriane can still attest to that! And rumor has it that Mike was even more stubborn than me… you’ll have to ask him about that. However, no matter how difficult, obstinate, or just plain stupid we acted, Mom always maintained her confidence in us that we could accomplish anything with the right mindset and hard work.
Sometime in High School, I know that I started to become an ‘over-achiever’ on the self-confidence scale. Fortunately, Mom also knew with 1000% certainty that self-confidence without kindness and graciousness was just a recipe for a ‘cocky punk’… at least I think that was what my best friend Aaron called me when I regularly lapsed on this front.
Similar to “Okay, let’s try again”, Mom just as regularly said, “Let’s go visit…so and so”… and boy, did we visit!
“Let’s go visit the Paterson’s….”, Alice Vernon’s parents, who would always pull out 50 year old games for us to play and make us old fashion hand pies over the stove top
“Let’s go visit the Johnston’s…”, who shared countless stories of Champaign Central High School and University of Illinois legends… and who sold me my first, second and third pair of rollerblades (which I still own by the way)!
“Let’s go visit the Hambrick’s…”, where I was born; and whose daughter Lashunda was 11 when she met Mom and who was also my Babysitter from birth!
And the list went on-and-on, including many of you in this room today. I still have no idea where she found the time to visit everyone… but as we all know, my mom had a completely different sense of time than most! Little did I know at the time that one of the side-effects from spending A LOT of time with amazingly kind and gracious people like the Paterson’s, Johnston’s, Hambrick’s, and all of you was that a little of your goodness rubbed off onto us every time!
One of the most special gifts Mom gave us was her gift of constant curiosity. At any given time, Mom was exploring and learning about at least 2-3 new things. She rarely passed by a botanical garden, museum, or farmers market without stopping… often to Dad’s, Mike’s and my grumbles. Grandfather and I were speculating last week that given the fact that Mom started checking out armfuls of books from the Urbana Library at a very young age that it is entirely likely that she holds the all-time record for the number of books checked out from the Champaign-Urbana libraries! You heard the list of books that my dad shared….How’s that for a range of topics?
Over the past couple of months, we joked with Mom that we should not be surprised that her cancer cells were not giving up easily and succumbing to the battery of chemotherapy treatments that she was throwing at them … after all, they were morphed version of HER own cells! We compared them to the “Bad Spiderman” version of her “Good Spiderman” cells…
they were persistent, like her
they were insistent, like her
they were stubborn, like she could be (every once in a while)
Despite their persistence and stubbornness, Mom fought the cancer the only way she knew how….the exact same way she lived every other day of her life:
with a positive, try-and-try again ‘can do’ mindset
being kind and gracious to EVERYONE she interacted with; including the wonderful doctors, physician assistants, nurses, techs, hospital staff, fellow patients, hotel staff, and quite frankly anyone she encountered
and with the utmost tenacity and steadfast belief that she was going to prevail…
There is a possible misperception that I want to clear up… Mom did not lose the battle.
A couple of weeks before she passed, Mom shared with me that she had been practicing “clearing her glass”, an exercise that George Patterson, Alice’s brother, had taught her. She said that she would start by closing her eyes and imagining a large glass, a large martini glass to be specific! Now, I have NO idea why Mom picked a martini glass, because, to my knowledge, she never drank a martini in her life! Right, Dad?
But anyways…. She would then imagine all of the thoughts swimming around her mind inside of the glass. She would then calmly ‘clear her glass’ by imagining everything inside of the glass dissolving and disappearing until the glass was completely empty. She said that it was not easy at first, but through trying and trying again, she was getting so good at “clearing her glass” that she was able to fall asleep easily and was not experiencing any pain. As a matter of fact, she never once said that she had any pain in the final weeks.
Mom figured out how to win. She figured out how to separate her spirit and soul from her body. And that is how she prevailed over the cancer. Her spirit and soul is very much around us all today and will continue to be for the rest of our physical lives.
We all have a new spirit and angel looking over us. Now granted, that curious spirit is spending the vast majority of her time wispping around botanical gardens, libraries, museums, and farmers markets…
…but in an instant she will be present when any of us are struggling with something that is new, seemingly complex and almost impossible. She will be there to give us a soft nudge and whisper in our minds, “Okay, let’s try again.”"
"How do I know Betsy? - she is the eldest daughter of my father's Professor at UIUC, Dr Pendleton. Papa always had a big smile on his face when he told us stories about how friendly a child Betsy was even at the age of 9-10! The relationship between the 'Jains' and the Pendletons dates back to 1961-62, when my father came all the way from India for his PhD. To a very great extent the credit of keeping the two families together, including the next generation, goes to Betsy.
The entire year before our son, Akshat, joined UIUC, starting August 2014, Betsy and I exchanged a mail nearly every week! She was full of information, even going to the college to meet professors and find out details about the international admissions and the course of Akshat's choice. She was even more excited than me about the possibility of a 'Jain child' from India joining UIUC! And when my son got admission, I got mails nearly daily from Betsy on what Akshat, his father and I should expect and the conversations we should have with our son to prepare him for life at UIUC! She cheerfully shared anecdotes of David and Michael while in UIUC so that I would not worry about any 'troubles' my son might get into while in College!
Her warmth and genuineness were phenomenal - she asked me to let her know what Akshat likes to eat when he is unwell - so that she could make it for him if the need arose and he did not feel homesick! This for me is the most thoughtful a person can be. After that day I never worried about Akshat going far away from home - I knew he would another home. I doubt we would have even thought of sending Akshat so far away if it were not for Betsy-Kam and Prof Pendleton. And I definitely could not have helped Akshat settle down at UIUC so quickly and well were it not for Betsy. She picked up his entire bedding and even laundered it before we landed! And though she was not well, she walked with me through the long aisles to pick up a fridge and oven for Akshat. And after dozens of questions and letters exchanged between us, to find out what I liked, she organised to the last detail a packed 3 day stay for me with her and Kam. She took me on a farm visit, a visit to her beautiful office where I was introduced to her colleagues, organised to watch a jury selection (fascinating for me as a lawyer from a country which does not have a jury system!), drove me with Holly to Summerfield to see Frank Lloyd's Dana Thomas house (a favorite architect of mine!) and even planned how to leave Akshat and Kam alone for a man-to-man talk! She organised a day at Chicago where over lunch of wantons (vegetarian ones specially for me!) I could meet their large family, including David and Michael and the three grandkids, and my namesake - Shireen! It was heartening to see how close the family is.
Betsy - friendly, helpful, cheerful, with a thirst for knowledge and a love of nature. I was lucky to have had Betsy in my life. There is so much one can take from her! And yes, the bonds she forged can only grow."
"I have many memories of Betsy from her many trips to the nursing home where I took care of her mother, but my Fondest memory will always be the night of the Gala back on Nove 4 when she presented me with the Gloria Valenti Capassionate Care Award which her father and her choose to nominate me for. I Loved the time I spent with her and her family they will be forever in my heart. Love and Prayers to you all."
"Betsy and Pam’s visit to Delhi some years ago was a high point for the Jain family and we have many fond memories of days spent with both of them. Both were so eager to learn about India and also so warm and friendly that we immediately felt they were a part of the family. There were no boundaries with them and even after their return to the US the current of love and goodwill between us continued to flow. Betsy extended the relationship beautifully, writing to each one of us. I treasure her appreciative note that came to me out of the blue when she read one of my feature article’s that Papa must have forwarded. She made sure to include us in all the big and little events of her life, equally joining in ours. Her joy in being let into the secret of the big 50th wedding anniversary party we were planning for our parents increased our own glee in the whole thing. It was like getting a hug from her from afar. As Akshat’s aunt I know how much it meant to his parents that Prof Pendleton, Betsy and the rest of the family were watching over him every step of the way as he entered Illinois University. The bonds she forged will go longer still, there can be no stopping now."
"Our dear Betsy passed away...I say "our" because she was a friend to all that knew her. She had a big heart that she shared with many. She tended her garden as she tended her family and friends, with loving care and beauty. She will be deeply missed by all. Gods peace & blessings to her wonderful family, thank you for sharing her with us."
"I am totally devastated by learning the news. Betsy went to see me when I as sick at Carle and I never eared from her much after that. She did stopped by where I work and it was brief. I never suspected anything, I never had a chance to tell her Thank You. She was an amazing gardener, a positive person, thoughtful and off a great knowledge, always interested about what was happening in my own country. I am very sadened by her loss. Please accept my condolences."
"Betsy will always be a a smiling light in the Patterson household. Never did we meet or see her that her trademark smile, or creative gift with words did not emanate from her and leave us feeling better!
Although her physical presence is gone, the memory of her positve energy, joyful exuberance, and keen sene of humor will never be lost. To Kam, all the family, and her many friends, we send our condolences. To Betsy, we thank you for bringing a contagious zest for life, a lasting smile, and positive impact on all! Thank you Betsy! George and Sandi Patterson"
"Betsy was my oldest sister and the oldest child in our family. She was the classic first child and over achiever in all she did.
Betsy never just did, she redefined and tried to win at all, for the greater good of all. She set a high bar for our entire family to aspire, to achieve and to make the world a better place in all we touched.
She waged a tremendous battle at cancer, because it was something to beat for all.
She unlocked the mystery of medical science and the beautiful art work at the Mayo in the midst of her battle.
No one can answer the complex question of why Betsy left this earth at a young age and with much yet to see and do. She had a tremendous life but aspired to see and do so much more in the years ahead.
She loved Kam, David, Michael and their families. I know she will continue to watch over and teach the grandkids and assist her sons and daughter in laws from afar.
Betsy rest in peace and know that you helped us all.
"I am so sad to learn of this news. This is a huge loss to our community..and to everyone who has ever been graced by her exuberant friendliness and spirit of kindness. The first time I met her (over the back fence) I said to myself, "wow, I'm so lucky to have a neighbor like that." Throughout the years she has repeatedly reached out to me and others in the spirit of helpfulness, sharing, and warm friendship. I will miss her lot. She was a truly wonderful person."
Have a suggestion for us?