Elizabeth June Griess, “Betty” (our Mom), was born in 1922 at a momentous time in the world, and she took her place in that world proudly. Her parents were William Griess and Flossie "Pauline" Davis Griess, and she had one sibling, her beloved brother, William "Billy" Benjamin Griess. Betty lost her beloved mother, Pauline – age 39, in the early days of 1937, to tuberculosis. This loss became a sad turning point in her life, from which she never completely recovered. Nevertheless, she continued on through her teenage years, graduated from high school, and prepared to enter nursing school in the early 1940s. As fate would have it, she met her future husband, Curtis "Lynn" Sample, over a tennis date she was having with his cousin. They fell hard for each other, and Betty gave up her nursing dream, and Lynn gave up his dream to become a geologist, so that they could marry. As the story goes, Betty and Lynn’s first apartment was over a butcher shop, which was ironic, since Betty had never cooked in her life. She was raised in a house with a full-time house-keeper, who took care of such things. Somehow, the butchers helped Mom figure out how to cook pork-chops, and that’s what poor Lynn got to eat every night for a very long time! Despite her challenges in the culinary field, Betty was so happy with Lynn, and we’re pretty sure he felt just the same way. Over the next few years, Betty gave birth to Curtis "Curt" Lynn Sample, Jr. in 1942, and Ronald Charles Sample, in 1945. She had requested daughters for both births, and was so upset when her second child still wasn’t a daughter that she gave Ron the doctor’s name for his middle name! World War II came to her family's door when Lynn was drafted into the Army, just prior to Ron’s birth. Betty shouldered on, raising her sons and waiting until Lynn returned to them. Just as Lynn was about to be deployed to combat, he came down with spinal meningitis, and spent the rest of his tour of duty in the hospital at his base. For the rest of his life, when asked where he was deployed to, he said he fought the battle of Fort Arkansas. Mom made several emergency trips from OK to his base, when the doctors called her to say that he wasn’t going to survive. Turns out, he was as stubborn as she was, and he did survive.
After his discharge from the Army Lynn took the opportunity to move to Casper, WY, where Lynn was employed as a Seismograph operator, and where he enjoyed the rich geology around the Casper area. With very strong resistance, Betty shortly afterward packed up the little boys, and joined Lynn here. Their first home together was in Hog Jaw Valley, where Mom was convinced they were going to freeze to death that first brutally cold, snowy winter! After a few years, Betty and Lynn and the boys came to love Wyoming, spending as much time as possible up on Casper Mountain, but even more time at Alcova Lake. The boys became serious little league baseball players, and Lynn often coached, which left Mom to…watch many games, and spend lots of social time with her many women friends. In late 1955, Betty and Lynn were more than a little surprised to find out that Betty was going to have a baby, or better/worse yet, twins, who were born in July, 1956 - Paula Sue Smith and Patty Lou Sample. She finally got her daughters. (Years later she rued her wish for girls, when they would criticize her clothing choices or hair style. She would lament: “Why did I want girls? All you do is pick at me. Your brothers thought I was beautiful and told me so all the time!”) The suddenly larger family moved from their beloved house on Westridge Place to W. 25th St. in Casper. They enjoyed their life there, even after Mom went through a major lung-cancer scare in 1961, which resulted in Mom returning home, relieved but in long-term pain from the hospital in Denver, where the surgeons had cut her from her sternum around to her back and up to her shoulder area, in preparation for removal of her left lung. Around that time, son Curt enlisted in the Army, which meant that the females in the house became the slim majority. Ron graduated from NCHS, and went on to Casper College.
We established a new normal, which worked until her husband, Lynn, died suddenly in December of 1964. Betty, southern Belle though she was, suddenly had become a single mother with two grown boys, and two very young daughters. Even in her grief, she took her responsibilities seriously, and worked as an Admissions officer at "Natrona County Memorial Hospital" for a number of years, and later, for many more years as a medical receptionist for Dr. Phibbs, Dr. Youmans, Dr. Frizzel, and Dr. Calhoun. In spite of her large responsibilities, she always had time for her favorite hobby: chatting for hours with her many friends and family members on the kitchen wall phone. After Betty retired in 1987, she became a full-time baby sitter for many more years, to a number of her own grandchildren, as well as the babies and young children of some special friends, well into her late 70s.
Betty loved dogs, and had one in her home throughout her life, until she no longer could care for one. She also had become an amazing cook, and an amazing appreciator of good food to eat. She loved her soaps, and often would videotape them, so she could catch up on them in the evening. Betty, who became “Nana,” in 1968, enjoyed watching her family grow, as both her sons, and eventually Paula, welcomed her granddaughters into the world. Betty’s other primary hobby was: knitting and crocheting, which she enjoyed very much, and in fact became a true artist in her creations (not true, but we always have promised Mom that we would print this!). Betty did have her challenges, and among them were her fear of being alone, and her wish that her four children would never have left home. She came as a complete package, and kept all of us mindful of this.
After she lost Lynn, Betty never again was lucky in love but, God love her, she made a number of attempts, which resulted in several name changes. At about the time Betty retired from her receptionist work, she also retired from men, and said so. She had her children, and a growing number of grandchildren, near and far, and found great joy in all of us, instead. In the early years of the new millennium, Betty's health began to decline, due to a life-threatening infection, followed by several major falls over the next few years, resulting in a number of surgeries, to perform joint replacements, and mend bones. Her last surgery of this kind was performed less than a week before she passed. She lived in assisted living at Meadow Wind for a number of years, where we found a competitive side to Mom that we had been completely unaware of: She was a BINGO shark! She rolled down the halls with a large purse of nickels she had won off of all the other residents attached to her bright red walker, and for which she had no remorse. She and a male resident almost came to fisticuffs on a daily basis, over the large BINGO card they both believed was the lucky one!
Betty experienced two more painful losses during those years: the death of her oldest child, Vietnam veteran, Curt Sample who died on Veteran’s Day in 2005, and the loss of her only sibling, Bill Griess, in January of 2008. Following a bad fall that fractured Mom’s left hip several years ago, she was moved into long-term care at Life Care Center. By this time, Betty’s vision and hearing slowly had vanished. Nevertheless, until just a few years ago, she loved her morning news (even if the paper had to be read to her), and her morning coffee, She also loved her frequent visits from her daughter, Paula, her granddaughters, Melissa and Megan, and Melissa’s children, Melody and Gage, all of whom live in town. Betty started calling daughter Paula “mom” several years ago, and Paula took on that role faithfully, ensuring that the real Mom’s needs were met as much as could be. Melissa, became Nana’s beauty and design consultant, keeping her nails done, her make-up perfect on special occasions, her room decorated for all seasons, and her costumes created for Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, and other incidental theme days where Mom lived. Mom even took first place at least once in the Halloween costume contest. Granddaughter Megan always was good at teasing her Nana, offering her beer and cigarettes (not in Nana’s repertoire of desired vices, but good for a chuckle from Nana, who feigned shock.). Until Betty/Mom/Nana passed this past Sunday evening, she continued to love and enjoy her many family members, and snacks, and the occasional meal of coconut shrimp and sweet potato.
Betty’s final hours were spent in the loving care of her family, and a fleet of staff members from Shepherd of the Valley, in Paradise Valley, who came to her side and cared for her with complete compassion, expertise, and gentleness. Betty’s entire family is forever thankful for the overwhelming care and love shone by those professionals to Betty as well as to us.
Betty Cochran reached the age of 95, and she couldn’t see much anymore or hear much anymore. Nevertheless, she was in no hurry to leave us, and we all felt the same. Her many family members, already mentioned, are seriously grieving her loss. Add to these individuals enough progeny to fill up a great tree in Ancestry.com! Altogether, Nana is survived by her remaining three children: Ron (Bette), Paula, and Pat (Terry). Next are Nana’s six beloved and devoted granddaughters: Diana Sample, Jennifer Louwen, Leah Barrett, Melissa DeSersa, Megan Elizabeth (after Betty’s name) Smith, and Emily Smith Sanner, as well as two step-grandchildren: Max and Kelsey Van Wechel. The next wave of family grieving Betty’s loss are her great-grandchildren: Jeremy, Chris, Ken, Preston, Logan, Scott, Christopher, Kenny, Sean, Fin, Melody (the only female out of 13!), Gage, and step-grandson Ryker Holden. Nana’s great-great-grandchildren, as of today are: Bailey, Landyn, LJ, Bentley, Kinsley, Blaize, Brooklynn, Autumn, and Ember. One and all are looking sadly ahead to a much quieter life without Nana to visit and love on. Ron, Paula, Patty, Melissa, Megan, Diana, Leah, and Bette were by her side, as Betty went to join in her next adventure the many loved ones she had lost over the years. Betty was a HUGE woman in her family's life, and we all are celebrating the many, many years she kept us all on our toes.
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