Our mother, Betty Grace (Hurst) Turpin, Kearney, MO, gratefully welcomed new life Dec. 21, 2022, unencumbered by the debilitating effects of osteoporosis and resulting falls which had made life challenging in her last months. At age 95 years and 8 months, she had lived longer than any of her parents, brother, grandparents, or great grandparents. That is quite remarkable in light of the health challenges she lived with over the last 70 years. At age 26, she was diagnosed with polio on her 9th wedding anniversary, near the end of that devastating epidemic. There being no available space in any Kansas City hospital, she and her whole family were initially treated at home for two weeks with the devoted round-the-clock care of her mother, Alice May Hurst, and her mother-in-law, Jessie Turpin. By some divine grace, she awakened from sleep one night feeling a numbness in her feet that was creeping up her legs. The doctor was called, who instructed the two caregivers to massage her legs, starting above the numbed area and working downward until the numbness was gone from her feet. By the time the doctor arrived our two grandmothers had accomplished their task and the paralysis was gone; he told them that had the paralysis reached Mom’s heart, it would have caused her death instantly; that is what polio – infantile paralysis – can do. It took weeks of hospitalization and six months of physical therapy to enable her to regain her ability to walk, graduating slowly through crutches and a cane, until eventually she could walk unaided again.
Mom lived with the aches and pains caused by polio for the remainder of her life, embodying the spirit of which Willa Cather wrote in her Song of the Lark: “People live through such pain only once. Pain comes again – but it finds a tougher surface.” Pain would come again – through two accidents which seriously damaged her neck and spine, the sleeplessness, twitching muscles and stabbing pains caused by fibromyalgia, post-polio syndrome in the 1970s, two cancers in her 80s with their concomitant surgeries, nauseating chemotherapies and searing radiation treatments, but each of these found Mom’s “tougher surface.” Her complaints were few; her constant companion was her trusty heating pad. When her spine began rather suddenly bending and twisting with osteoporosis in her mid-90s, it was that “tougher surface” that enabled her to get up and learn to walk again.
She was born on the Hurst family farm that was pre-empted in 1843 by her great grandparents halfway between Rushville and De Kalb in Buchanan County, Missouri. She walked nearly three miles to the one-room Sleepy Hollow School where her father and grandfather had gone to school before her and graduated from the Rushville High School in 1944. It was there that she came to know Glenn Turpin; they were married at First Christian Church, Atchison, Kansas in October 1944 following their high school graduations and Dad’s completion of basic training for service in the U.S. Navy. Their marriage was blessed to endure for just a few months short of 75 years. As Dad served in the South Pacific in World War II, the modest country girl bravely relocated to San Francisco to be closer to him, where she lived and found employment first in a Woolworth’s store and later as a bank teller.
After the war, Betty and Glenn lived with her parents, Bob and Alice May Hurst, in Rushville and then as Dad began studying at St. Joseph Junior College they lived with his parents, Granville and Jessie Turpin, in that city. During that time she had her first son, James. Second son Robert joined the family when they later relocated to Sunflower Village, Kansas where Dad had begun studies at nearby K.U. They subsequently moved to Bonner Springs for four years and then to Kansas City North, where Mom would live out her next 70 years. During that time she was an active and vital member of the North Kansas City First Christian Church and its Diaconate, assisting in the church office, teaching classes for children’s Bible School, participating in Christian Women’s Fellowship studies and in various actions of service. Her church involvement led her to many years of volunteer service in the Clay County Clothes Closet and to participation in Northland Church Women United. She also served as a Cub Scout Den Mother and a Room Mother at Crestview Elementary School. She enjoyed listening to music, and making music on her piano and organ.
Mom loved sewing, knitting, and crocheting; she made scores of crocheted lap robes to warm patients in hospitals and care facilities, for which she was honored late in life by Cancer Action. She loved growing flowers, baking mouth-watering cinnamon bread, and masterfully developed the art of homemade pie crusts for the delectable pastries she constantly baked and shared with family and friends. She joined in Dad’s hobbies of traveling, rock hunting and jewelry-making with hand-crafted silver and gemstones. And, beyond her immediate family, including daughter-in-law Judy Turpin, she delighted in her grandchildren and their families: Joel Turpin and Anita Turpin – both of Vienna, Austria; Jessica Turpin Gachet (Alex), of Fribourg, Switzerland; Jeremy Turpin (Candi); Terri Hand Troncin (Shane); and Gary Hand, Jr. (Tina); and her great grandchildren: Justin and Chloé Grace Gachet, Lukas and Liam Turpin, Amy Turpin, Quinn and Logan Troncin, and several nieces and nephews. And she fondly remembered her family members who preceded her, husband Glenn, parents, brother Bob L. Hurst, and her first great grandson, Michael James Turpin.
Mom did not enthusiastically move from her home in the Northland late in life, but in time she came to appreciate a new home with family in Kearney, MO. Appreciation is shared with Jim and Judy Turpin for opening their home to Mom when she was no longer able to live alone in her own home of nearly 70 years. We additionally thank the care-givers of Valley Manor & Rehab Center and Three Rivers Hospice who provided assistance with living in her last days.
Although Mom spurned the notion of a visitation or memorial service, she indicated that family or friends who wished to remember her might do so through memorials to either of two, among many, of the charities that she regularly supported: First Christian Church of North Kansas City, or the Northland Assistance Center – both located at 2018 Gentry St., North Kansas City, MO 64116. Her inurnment will be at a later time at Sugar Creek Cemetery, Rushville, Missouri.
We celebrate her 95 years of life, her love, the “tougher surface” and faith that kept her going, and the new life which is now hers. She was ready to lay down her well-worn body and rest. “Not where she breathes, but where she loves – she lives.”
Memories of Betty and condolences may be shared at Meyersfuneralchapel.com.