Evelyn's Story

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Evelyn Louise (Betts) Lawrence, 97, of Dion Avenue in Kittery, died peacefully at her home on July 17, 2016.
She was born on April 22, 1919, in Newport, R.I., the daughter of David Ephraim Betts, a self-made carpenter and businessman who had been born during the Civil War in the wilderness of northern Maine, and Flora Bernice Gordon a domestic servant from Brewer, Maine.
She is survived by four sons, Jeffrey L. Lawrence of Alexandria, Va., Gary I. Lawrence of Hillsboro, Ore., Jon G. Lawrence of Porter Corners, N.Y., and Mark W. Lawrence of South Berwick, Maine; and their wives, Lynne Lawrence, Dee Horne, Marie Lawrence and Tina Cunningham, respectively. She is also survived by her seven grandchildren, David, Regina, Samantha, Michael, Ann, Céline and Hayley; and by one great-grandchild James Patrick. She was predeceased by a son, Stephen Gordon Lawrence, who died on July 13, 1948; two grandchildren, Matthew Ephraim Lawrence and Cady Elizabeth Lawrence; two brothers, Everett Betts and Ralph Betts; a half-brother, Harold Betts; and a half-sister, Ethel Betts who died during an influenza epidemic in 1907.
She grew up in the 1920s in the booming manufacturing city in Beverly, Mass. At the outset of the Great Depression, her father moved the family to a small farm house in Groveland, Mass., where they could grow their own food while he managed his apartment buildings in Beverly. She graduated from Groveland High School at the age of 16 where she played basketball. Her father sent her to Burdett School of Business in Boston, Mass., to learn bookkeeping. She dreamed of becoming a Business Executive and working in one of the high rises in Boston.
After receiving her certificate, she went to work at Gordon, Lowe and Godfrey in Boston. However, her father developed cancer and she had to return home to care for him. At 19 years old, she was left to try to salvage her father’s real estate holdings but, after nine years of the Great Depression, little equity was left. When her father died, all the family was left with was the small farm house and no income.
She found a job with a small firm in Haverhill, Mass. Since she was the only one able to find work, she had to make her income support her brother and her mother and the home in which they lived. She was successful in getting her mother qualified for benefits under in the newly created Social Security system, saving Flora from a lifetime of poverty and dependence on her children.
She continued to work throughout the Great Depression and into WWII. During the war, she met an enlisted Navy man, Irving L. Lawrence, while visiting with one of her girlfriends. They began to correspond regularly while he was in the service. They were married Oct. 29, 1944, during his leave.
After the war, Irving took a job as a welder at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Evelyn left her job in Haverhill and the couple moved to Kittery. She set about managing their small income and starting a family. She became a member of the First Congregational Church of Kittery at Kittery Point. The family soon had four boys. She became a den mother in Troup 307 and an active volunteer in the Kittery schools.
She was a wonderful and devoted mother to her four sons. Her greatest goal was to see that each had a college education. She went back to work at as a typesetter in her fifties in order to pay for their tuition. She began working at Blaisdell Printing, then Randall Press and finally Copyrite & Blaisdell Printing, all in Portsmouth. After her last son graduated, she tried to retire several times but was constantly asked to come back. She also discovered she missed working too much. She said what she enjoyed most was helping young people who were starting new businesses.
Even though she would work at least part-time until her late seventies, she and Irving found time to become further involved in community activities and to travel around the country and to Europe. She was active in her church serving as a Deacon for 16 years. She became only the second person to be named Deacon Emeritus in the 300 year history of the church. She was famous for the number and quality of preserves she put up for the annual church Christmas fair. She and Irving were active in Meals on Wheels and she spent many hours helping to establish a Memorial Guild to organize receptions for families who had lost loved ones.
Visiting hours with the family will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, August 5, 2016, at the JS Pelkey Funeral Home, 125 Old Post Road, Kittery. A Funeral will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday August 6, 2016, at the First Congregational Church of Kittery at 25 Pepperrell Road, Kittery Point, ME, with a reception at the family home on Dion Avenue. All are welcome. Family flowers only. Online condolences may be made by visiting www.jspelkeyfuneralhome.com.
Donations in her memory may be made to the Building Preservation Fund of the First Congregational Church of Kittery at Kittery Point, 25 Pepperrell Road, Kittery Point, ME 03905, or the American Red Cross Great Bay Chapter, 4 Arboretum Drive, Newington, NH 03801.
Published on  July 28, 2016
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