Thank you for inspiring us to be better people.
  • 86 years old
  • Born on March 26, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan, United States.
  • Passed away on September 26, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan, United States.

Surrounded by her family, our beloved Betty passed away September 26, 2012 after a brief illness. Born March 26, 1926, in Detroit, Michigan, she graduated from Redford High School then attended the University of Michigan until marrying her life-long sweetheart Harlan MacDowell with whom she celebrated a 65th wedding anniversary. The couple lived briefly in Flint and Grand Ledge (Harlan's hometown), before moving to the Detroit-area communities of first Redford and then Farmington Hills, the two in which they raised their five children, Marsha (C. Kurt Dewhurst), Bruce (Lynne), Douglas (Adela Romero-León), Clare Luz (David Stowe) and Paul (Frances Spring).

Ever inspired by an interest in art, history, and religion, Betty eventually completed her undergraduate and master's degrees at Wayne State University where she then taught art history for several years. She continued her graduate studies and, at the age of 62, completed a doctorate in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Michigan State University where she subsequently served as a faculty instructor and was appointed as a Research Associate with the Michigan State University Museum. A serious scholar, Betty was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society and published on women's history, women's art, religious folk art, and stained glass. Among numerous other lasting achievements was her initiation and leadership in building of the H-Stained Glass network, an online worldwide community of stained glass artists and scholars. She also was founding Director of the Michigan Stained Glass Census project in which hundreds of volunteers around the state have assisted in documenting architectural stained glass in their communities. Collected data on windows in over 1200 buildings is now accessible at

After Harlan's retirement from Chrysler, he and Betty moved back to Grand Ledge. There, together, they immersed themselves in community leadership roles, projects, and activities in the community, including at the Grand Ledge Historical Society, the Michigan Women's Historical Society and Hall of Fame, the Grand Ledge Opera House, and Delta Presbyterian Church.

Above all else, Betty cherished her family and provided unfailing generosity, love and support. She instilled in them a deep respect for learning, knowledge, and creativity; was a talented pianist who often inspired singing along to music from the thirties and forties; and loved crossword puzzles, gardening, reading with her book group, bird watching, and documenting family genealogy. Harlan and Betty enjoyed traveling far and wide to visit family and friends while seeking to learn about our natural and cultural world. Always, Betty strove for perfection, whatever the task in front of her, and her example of determination, grace, faith, kindness and patience will continue to inspire those who knew and loved her.

In addition to her children, Betty leaves behind much loved grandchildren: Marit Dewhurst (Nathan Sensel), Regina Abood (Zach), Hugh MacDowell, Anne Larson, Conner Luz, Ian MacDowell, Joseph Spring, Paula MacDowell-Romero, and her namesake Betty Ann MacDowell-Romero and one great-grandchild, Elizabeth Larson. She was preceded in death by her parents, Vivian C. and Hugh V. Rybolt, and her sister Nancy L. Gage.

Her husband and children are especially indebted to the care that Harlan's brother and sister-in-law, Barry and Carolyn MacDowell, provided in her last days. There will be no public viewing or funeral service.

A memorial service will be held Sunday, October 14 at 1:30 p.m. at Delta Presbyterian Church, 6100 W. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan. The family requests that memorial gifts be given in Betty's name to the Michigan Stained Glass Census care of the Michigan State University Museum or to the Grand Ledge Opera House care of the Grand Ledge Opera Authority. Online condolences and memories can be shared here or at

Posted by Mary Schneider on 26th July 2013
Hello, I am Sr. Mary Lea Schneider, OSf, PhD, who was Betty's doctoral thesis advisor at Michigan State. Dr. Fred Graham, a colleague of mine in the dept. of Religous Studies at MSU alerted me to her passing in an email sent yesterday. I was thrilled to have Betty as a student--she was delightful to work with and my condolences go to all the family members. I will retain fond memories.

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