A Loving Tribute from Lisa Allison and David Buttenmiller
As Betty’s kids, we grew up knowing our mom by her chosen name, Marie, the middle name she shared with her own mother. We knew her by her caring nature, her deep faith in God, her unconditional love for my dad and us, her passion for literature, her great imagination and quick wit. We admired her curiosity and love of learning, her love of nature and animals, her boundless creativity, and her kindness toward family, friends and strangers. I think her choice to be compassionate was deeply rooted in her own childhood, which was anything but easy. We also knew her by her amazing homemade cookies, this is something that cannot be overlooked.
Betty Marie Buttenmiller, (Godfrey), was born on Valentine’s Day in Hart, Michigan in 1929 to Walton David Godfrey and his wife, Johanna Marie Godfrey, (Andersen). Johanna immigrated to the United States from Denmark as a seventeen year old and worked to become a nurse at Children’s Free Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Years later, she left nursing to marry Walton. Walton owned a farm just outside of Shelby, Michigan, the “West coast of Michigan”. It is a beautiful area close to Lake Michigan and Silver Lake. Betty Marie was the first born child for the Godfrey family. Two and a half years later, Betty’s younger brother, Forrest was born.
Tragically their mom, Johanna, passed away from terminal cancer when Betty was only five years old, leaving her father to raise his two kids alone while making a living as a rural farmer during the great depression.
Betty felt the absence of her mother acutely as she was growing up. Until she was nine years old, her grandmother, Katherine Godfrey, helped out as much as she could. She helped with cooking, cleaning and mostly by being a loving adult that Betty could confide in. When her grandma died, Betty understood the permanence of death and grieved her loss greatly. After that Betty took on most of the cooking and other household chores but never felt like her father really approved of the job she did. He could be quite stern and critical of Betty, who felt unloved and alone at times as a kid.
As imaginative kids do, Betty and Forrest did find some fun in growing up in the country in spite of not having much money. Betty enjoyed riding one of their two farm horses, Ned, when she was a kid. Her dad had told his kids not to ride the other horse, Snap, because he was too mean. Our mom, Betty Marie, told Lisa recently that she regrets not riding Snap in spite of the warnings. That story made Lisa smile.
The years quickly passed and after Betty graduated from Shelby High School in 1947 she enrolled in Hackley Hospital School of Nursing, graduating and earning her R.N. in 1950. She worked in nursing for two years, while saving up money for her future. After two years she felt her life was in somewhat of a rut and decided to spend her savings on more education. She enrolled in Western Michigan University to study occupational therapy. Those years were happy ones for Betty. Despite being older than the other freshmen she looked very young. During this time she really enjoyed her youth and freedom for the first time and embraced college life. After two years her savings ran out and she knew that she’d have to earn more money as a nurse in order to continue with college. Her brother, Forrest, who was in the service and was well traveled had told Betty about the beauty of Colorado. Being young and single, she decided to come to Denver and continue her nursing career and save more money toward finishing her degree.
Betty also decided to go by her middle name, Marie, as she felt it suited her better. She had never really felt like ‘Betty’. Marie quickly found a job as a nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver and often worked the ‘graveyard’ shift. She didn’t mind the odd hours and was enjoying Colorado on her days off. One morning after she finished her shift and was walking home to her apartment, she saw Nat King Cole walking with friends on the other side of the street. She thought that was pretty cool as she loved his music.
Her life changed forever when she agreed to go to a young adults’ picnic being held by Trinity Methodist Church. The picnic was at Castlewood Canyon State Park. Marie wasn’t a Methodist but thought it would be fun and wanted to meet more people her own age. There was a tall ranger station lookout tower that people could climb at that time. Marie had struck up a conversation with an interesting young man that she found out was also from Michigan. Detroit to be exact. His name was Wolfgang, even more interesting. Wolfgang challenged her to take the climb up to the top of the lookout tower with him and she accepted. They talked all the way up and Marie told him that she was a nurse at St. Luke’s. At the top, a ranger awarded the climbers with a “Squirrel Card” as a reward/joke for the long climb.
Wolfgang had forgotten to find out Marie’s last named but was smitten and went to St. Luke’s and found out through her co-workers who she was. They started dating shortly there after and fell in love. They were married August 1, 1957, on Colorado Day. Their first child, Lisa Marie, was born on Christmas day, 1958. Their youngest child, David Carl, was born May 11, 1961
Wolf and Marie were the best parents any kid could ask for and gave us a very imaginative, loving and secure home. They shared a deep faith that God is Love. They showed that belief in the way they treated us and everyone they encountered. They weren’t afraid to disagree, but were always respectful toward one another. They modeled honesty, kindness and a love of lifelong learning in their own lives thus teaching us those values. They loved the mountains and took us camping and hiking regularly as kids. They allowed us to keep all manner of pets but Marie’s favorite was Patty, a spirited German Shepherd, Malamute mix. She loved the fact that Patty was so opinionated and felt a real kinship with her.
One family tradition that Marie treasured was Sunday dinner at our Grandpa Carl Buttenmiller’s house. Grandpa was a baker by trade but also a phenomenal chef. He really enjoyed making a big European style four course meal for his family in Colorado. He lived near City Park in Denver, a widower whose beloved wife, Lydia, died shortly after my parents met, he dearly loved being with his family. The Buttenmiller family welcomed Marie with open arms and those Sunday dinners with Mom and Dad and Dad’s sister and brother-in-law, Tillie and Walt Wyoda, and our cousins, Diane, Peggy and Sandy were so much fun for everyone. In the summer, Dad’s older brother, Karl and his family would come to town for vacation too and it was one big, raucous, happy family get-together.
Marie was married to Wolfgang for 45 years until he passed away from cancer in November 23, 2002. She was heartbroken to lose her soulmate but was determined to still find joy in life. She continued to be an active member in Colorado Creative Writers group as well as in her church. She belonged to a quilters group, volunteered for various church groups, joined the Red Hats Club and continued to enjoy gardening and the outdoors.
When she was 78 in 2007, she was invited to her 60th Shelby High School reunion. Her daughter, Lisa and Lisa’s 17 year old son Andrew, her youngest grandson, made that happen at her request by taking her on a road trip to her old hometown. It was quite an adventure from the time Lisa got lost in the south side of Chicago to our walk on the beach near the beautiful lighthouse at Little Point Sable to meeting her high school classmates. We also enjoyed spending time with Marie’s niece, Cindy Meisner, (Buttenmiller), and her boyfriend Roy and family at their beautiful home on Hatchet Lake in northern Michigan. Roy took us all on a pontoon boat ride on the blue, clear waters. On the way home we drove through Minneapolis, St. Paul on a bridge that collapsed just a day after we had made it home to Colorado. Wow, talk about a close call. We were so glad that Mom got a chance to be at that 60th reunion,
The last three years in Marie’s life were probably the toughest. She gradually lost her ability to walk and was unable to stay in her home for medical reasons. I know it was tough for David and Lisa and all of her relatives to see her give up her home and live in a nursing care center. Mom really taught us grace in those last years. She kept her positive spirit and encouraged us every time we visited her. She was beloved by the whole staff at Harmony Pointe Nursing Center and We are sure she will be missed. We have gratitude to each of them for the loving care they gave Mom. This past Thursday evening both David and Lisa were there at the same time to visit Marie. She was so happy to see us and said. “It’s so good to see both of you together!” She looked good and we had a great visit with her. She loved a video of an elk the David had recorded on his cell phone. We think it made her feel like she was experiencing being out in the mountains vicariously.
Marie is survived by her son David Buttenmiller and his wife, Shelly, her daughter, Lisa Allison and her husband, Mark, her grandkids, Alexis Davina and husband, Seth, Eli Allison and partner, Becky Reitzes, Andrew Allison, Rachel Taylor and husband, Chad. She is also survived by her brother Forrest, (Frosty) Godfrey and his wife, Susan. She has three great grandchildren, Joseph Rubano, Phoenix Martin and River Davina. She also is survived by many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews and friends. She is survived by her sister in law Tillie Wyoda who she has always considered her sister and best friend. God bless each of you.
We were so blessed to have Marie Buttenmiller as our mom and will miss her daily. I know we will carry her love our hearts. Until we meet again.
Donations may be made in Marie's name to Foothills Animal Shelter, 580 McIntyre St., Golden, CO 80401.
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