A force to be reckoned with.
Betty Jane Bode passed away on December 25, 2016, at the age of 93, and
as one friend lovingly said, “Betty was a force to be reckoned with.”
She was a lifelong advocate and champion of all social, racial and women’s rights.
Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 15, 1923 to Chester J. and Alice (Edwards)
Hempton, she was raised around the docks of the Great Lakes, since all
the men in her family were Chief Engineers on the iron-ore boats. She
grew up learning how to interact with all types of people, thus beginning
her passion for social service.
In 1939 she was living in Toledo, Ohio, where she met Leonard A Bode. They
were married on June 18, 1942. She remained in Toledo throughout World
War II, while Len served as a Seabee in the Pacific with the U S Navy’s
4th Construction Battalion.
In 1952 Len and Betty along with their children Sharon and John, moved
to Tulsa. Len went to work at American Airlines as a Tool and Die Maker,
and retired as a General Manager of the Machine Shop 34 years later.
After moving to Tulsa, Betty worked in the healthcare industry. In 1956
she and her children were taking a bus trip to visit her family. Standing
in line, she noticed an african-american family patiently waiting to see
if any tickets would remain for them. Betty took a stand. When the ticket
agent asked “Where to Ma’am?”, she defiantly said “Absolutely
nowhere, until you give that family tickets to their destination.”
Betty never tolerated discrimination. The family got their tickets, and
then she bought hers. As fate would have it, Beulah Mackey, the Local
Director of Travelers Aid witnessed the encounter. She offered Betty an
Aide position, the first in her long and storied career in social work.
Beulah also became her mentor, and one of Betty’s many lifelong friends.
With both children attending the University of Tulsa, in 1964 she left
Travelers Aid to further her own education. After earning her Bachelors
of Arts in Psychology from TU in 1968, she returned to social work. Starting
with the Tulsa County Health Department, she opened Variety Health Clinic
on North Greenwood, as Clinic Director and Senior Counselor.
In 1974, she left the Health Department, and became the first Clinic Director
at Reproductive Services in Tulsa, finally retiring from that position
in 1987. Betty was a regular on the evening news, and her efforts were
instrumental in furthering the ERA and Pro-Choice movements in the 1960’s
Betty was involved with many social services organizations throughout Oklahoma,
including Planned Parenthood, NARAL, ORCRC, DVIS, Travelers Aid, Meals
on Wheels, and United Way’s Sickle Cell Anemia Association. Among
her many achievements and awards, she was honored to receive the Estelle
Antell Award for Outstanding Service in 2004 from the Oklahoma Chapter
of NARAL, a national pro-choice organization. A fellow social worker and
close friend said she was “the best social worker in Tulsa.”
Len and Betty were both very active with All Souls Unitarian Church, where
Betty was president of the Day Alliance, and served on the church board
Following their retirements, Betty and Len traveled extensively to over
20 countries. A talented artist in her own right, she loved visiting museums
including the Louvre, Prado, Tate, and her favorite, the Uffizi in Florence.
She also became a Docent at Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, where her favorite
activity was leading art appreciation tours for young school children.
Betty was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Robert Hempton,
and her daughter Sharon Bode-Hempton Coker. She is survived by her husband
of 74 years, Leonard A Bode; her son John L Bode and his wife Klara; three
grandchildren, Vanessa Alyce of Las Cruces, NM, Lara Coulter and Brian
Bode of Tulsa; eleven great-grandchildren; and seven great-great grandchildren.
She touched so many lives, and will be remembered by all, as having had
“a life well lived.”
A Memorial Service is scheduled at All Souls Unitarian Church, 2952 South
Peoria Ave, Tulsa, OK, Friday, January 13th, at 4pm.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Planned Parenthood,
DVIS, Meals on Wheels, or the Judy Halpern Social Justice Fund at Temple Israel.