Elizabeth Louise Brown Osborne, known to all as Betty Lou, died on September 11. Family, friends, and her beloved dogs surrounded her as she peacefully passed away on the land that she loved, Appleberry Farm. She was a resident of Sandy Hook for 74 of her 88 years.
Betty Lou was a dynamic woman of strong convictions and a gentle soul. She and her husband, Jim, were welcoming and extremely generous to all. Appleberry was a place where one could find a peaceful respite, a home cooked meal, a ride on a pony, a new puppy, some fresh garden vegetables and, of course, a swim in the pool. You always had to be prepared for April Fool’s Day, her special day of magic for all.
Betty Lou, also known as Gram and Gram-the-Great, was predeceased by her husband, James M. Osborne, Jr; her parents, Dorothy Dalton and Robert Y. Brown; and her brother, Robert Young Brown, Jr.
She is survived by her children, James Robert Osborne, and his wife Inge, of Hamden; Michael Brown Osborne, and his wife Deborah, of Sandy Hook; Dorothy (Dody) Allison Osborne Cox, and her husband Jay, of Guilford; and Susan Dayton Osborne White, and her husband Brian, of Newtown; her 12 grandchildren, Katherine Osborne Munno, Rebecca Osborne, Dalton Cox McCurdy, Owen Osborne, Kendall Cox Leclerc, Devin Osborne, Elizabeth “Libba” Cox Burke, Andrew White, Carly Osborne, Alice Frances Cox, Ian White, and Emmett White; five great-grandchildren, Jameson, Zachary, Lola, Avery, and Juniper, her sister-in-law, Allison Osborne Titgemeier of Chardon, Ohio; and her two loyal dogs, Scout and Stuart Little.
Betty Lou’s last few years were enriched by her companion, Deb Zaccagnini, along with her other friends and caregivers of love, Audrey Scout, Denise Buckley, Phyllis Page, and Marsha Moskowitz.
Betty Lou was born on April 6, 1925, in New York City. She spent her early years in the Fairfield area and attended Unquowa School. After graduating from Brearley School in Manhattan, Betty Lou and her dearest friend, Suzie Platt Bunzel, went on to graduate from Smith College in 1947.
Betty Lou married her soulmate and political sparring partner, Jim, at the Congregational Church (now Newtown Meeting House) on May 8, 1948. A reception followed at Appleberry Farm in the barn filled with apple blossoms and lilacs. They were an amazing team for more than 55 years.
Betty Lou’s passions were her family, Appleberry, and the animals, friends, politics, education, and her beloved town. She never took any of those for granted. She was a woman of dedication, courage, and a few strong opinions. She was a giver to all creatures great and small.
Betty Lou loved the natural world and all animals with a rare passion. Early in her years in Newtown she befriended the local veterinarian, Dr Russell Strasburger, and she rode around with him tending to animals. At Appleberry, the birth of a lamb in the spring was always a joyous occasion. Her menagerie did not stop there. She owned and trained 27 dogs in her lifetime, including some who were birthed at the farm.
Many unusual pets also found their way to Betty Lou, including a monkey, two skunks, a number of raccoons, a humongous steer who fell into the pool, and, for multiple years, there was always a very smart pig in the barnyard. Many of these pets would have to accompany the family on their annual road trips to Ohio, as it was a bit tough to find someone to watch and care for your skunk or monkey.
In the final years of her life Betty Lou fulfilled a longtime desire to add miniature horses to the farm. Within three days she had located them and had the horses delivered to Appleberry. It is very poignant that Betty Lou’s last trip from the farm was to Petco to get a companion for the lonely parakeet that sits in her family room. There is no better place for any animal than Betty Lou’s Appleberry Farm.
Betty Lou believed that one has a responsibility to their community, be it global or local. A lifelong Democrat, she campaigned for many town, state, and national candidates and, to this day, there is a picture of her with Bill Clinton on her fridge. She was very active in the League of Women Voters and went door to door in town explaining about the importance of two-acre zoning to the local farmers.
Betty Lou and her friend Betty Platt were also early and passionate supporters of Planned Parenthood. She taught Sunday School for the Congregational Church with Caroline Stokes, and was a Brownie and Cub Scout leader. Betty Lou was a passionate supporter on the sideline of many a baseball, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse games and wrestling matches for her children and grandchildren.
Betty Lou loved Newtown and took seriously her role to preserve the dream of Mary Hawley for Edmond Town Hall. She was elected to the Edmond Town Hall Board of Directors where she served as chairperson with Sarah Mannix at her side for multiple decades.
A staunch supporter of higher education, she had an unwavering belief that all Newtown students should have the financial support from their community to go on to any and all colleges. She served with Newtown Scholarship Association for almost 40 years, as president for three terms and chair of the awards committee from 1971 to 1997. Over those years Betty Lou also served on the Board of Trustees of Chase Collegiate School, formerly St Margaret’s-McTernan, in Waterbury.
In addition to all this, Betty Lou was owner of Connecticut Coal, Inc, and The Dock, Inc, in Milford (formerly of Stratford). She had inherited these from her father. Betty Lou and her late husband Jim, and their family, have continued to run the businesses.
Betty Lou was quite a woman. She would often tell her family “Carpe Diem.” Seize the Day. Betty Lou did just that.
A memorial service for family and friends of Betty Lou will be held Friday, October 4, at 10:30 am, at Newtown Meeting House, 31 Main Street in Newtown. Following the tribute all are invited to walk to Edmond Town Hall at 45 Main Street and gather in The Alexandria Room to continue the celebration of Betty Lou’s life.
In lieu of flowers, donations to The Newtown Scholarship Association, PO Box 302, Newtown CT 06470 would be appreciated.
The Newtown Bee September 13, 2013