On Monday, Nov. 1, 2010, Betty A. Nesbit of Billings passed away with her husband of 53 years, Charles, at her side.
Betty was born on Dec. 18, 1927, in Wisconsin, to Art and Rose Thompson. She moved as a young girl to Grand Rapids, Minn., where she attended grade school and high school and, later, college at Bemidji State. Most of the time she stayed with her mother (her father had died when she was only 2), but because her mother was often away teaching in rural schools, she sometimes lived with relatives and friends. Out of college, she taught English for a year at Detroit Lakes and then moved to San Jose, Calif., to be with her mother, Rose, and stepdad, Alf. She taught English there for a year before, at the urging of a college friend, Maureen (Rip) Van Winkle, who was already teaching at Billings Senior High, she applied for and got a teaching job with School District 2. She taught for four years at Senior High, and then a year after she and Charlie got married (since according to School District 2 rules, a married couple could not teach in the same building), she transferred to Lincoln Junior High. She loved it there, but when a year later West High opened, she agreed to move to Billings West and sponsor, with her husband, the Billings West High Majorettes. Late in her career, Betty switched from the classroom to counseling, a job for which her years as Mother Superior to the Majorettes had seemed a good preparation.
Theirs was a long reign. They started with eight girls (chosen at Senior High), jumped very quickly to 16, expanded to 24, and in only a few years marched a full 48. Of the 51 years she worked for School District 2, she was sponsor of the West High Majorettes for 43. Highlights were the big tournament halftimes and several trips to Orlando, Fla., for national championships.
The rest, as Shakespeare has already said, is silence. Accordingly, a poem “Silence” by Edgar Lee Masters was, perhaps, her favorite poem, a proof of which the many red marks in the margin of her old Adventures in American Literature give colorful testimony.
Preceding Betty in death are her mother and father, Art and Rose Thompson; a stepdad, Alf Ohman; a sister, Mary Jane Johnson and Arline Jerome; seamstress for, and fairy godmother to, the Billings West High Majorettes for over 30 years. Surviving are her husband, Charles; a brother, James Thompson; a bevy of special friends, Bill and Mary Jensen, Dr. James (Jamie) and Karen Baker, Sue and Daren Stanaway, Sjur and Beverly Gjerde, Lynn Jensen, Grace Nesbit, Doreene Nesbit; and a battery of beloved nieces and nephews from both sides of the wedding aisle.
Also surviving are some very loyal colleagues from both Senior and West, and of course, a host of former students and Majorettes, whose names do, indeed, get scrambled with time but whose faces are ever clear. How pleased she was, always, to have someone just ease up to say, “I am sure you don't remember me, but...” Perhaps that is why she would like for Charlie to say here, at the end — for them, and for her, too — this favorite Majorette goodbye: “God be in your pillow(s)!”
Betty's life will be celebrated on Saturday, Nov. 6, at Michelotti-Sawyers Mortuary, at 10 a.m. Michelotti-Sawyers is located at 1001 Alderson Ave.
In the long struggle, please, please to be well again she asked often just to sleep next to Charlie one more time, just to lie cuddled up against Charlie one more time. That wish will have to be on hold now for another day.