Betty Lee (Birkeland) Lawrence was the oldest child born to Leonard and “Jackie” (Florence Ethel Jeffries) Birkeland on April 13, 1938. She was followed by her younger siblings, Bruce, Nancy, Neil and Bart. She grew up on the Birkeland Ranch, graduating from Dupree High School in 1955. She attended the University of South Dakota, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She became the Chairman of the Nursing Department, fighting to maintain a four-year nursing school at USD. She married Ronald Roy Lawrence on December 21, 1958. They were divorced in 1996. Betty and Ron were blessed with 4 children, Diana, Alan, Timothy, and Tricia. Betty lived most of her life in Dupree, SD, Mobridge, SD and Eufaula, AL. She returned to Mobridge in 1997, where she worked as a registered nurse, medical transcriptionist, and lady rancher. Jim Silbernagel was her trusted ranch manager during these last 23 years.
Betty was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She loved spending time with her family, especially during the Fourth of July celebration in Mobridge. She would open her home to all, including pets, friends of friends, and stray fishermen who needed a place to stay. She loved music, playing the trumpet and piano. But her best instrument was her voice. She sang with gusto, and you could always pick her voice out of the chorus. She enjoyed performing songs and reciting poetry from memory including Little Orphant Annie and Warning. She loved sharing a good joke! She was a talented sewer and quilter, making lovely outfits and creative costumes and quilts. She even sewed Al and Tim’s first wrestling singlets. She loved watching the NCAA Women’s Basketball tournament and the French Open. She was fascinated by the National Sheepdog Trials, traveling to Sturgis, SD, Klamath Falls, OR and Hudson, WI to admire the way the dogs and handlers worked together. She had an adventurous spirit, learning how to snow ski and water ski. She went white water rafting. She visited China and explored London and the English countryside. She published a historical account of pioneer life on the prairie consisting of actual letters written by her Grandpa Vincent Jeffries titled Grandad’s Letters. Betty’s friends were treasured. She relished many hours playing bridge with dear Mobridge ladies. Her love of cards extended to pinochle. Her competitive nature surfaced during those games and she played to win. Her PEO Sisters and fellow church choir members in Eufaula and Mobridge were a cherished part of her life.
Betty had a servant’s heart and lived her faith by loving others as herself. She volunteered at church, with the annual Mobridge Hospital Bazaar dinner and snack bar, and as a Girl Scout Leader. In our family, Betty was The Great Facilitator, always making sure that her husband and children had all they needed to thrive. She spent countless hours taking us to appointments, wrestling matches, basketball games, and horse riding competitions. There was never any doubt Mom was our biggest fan. Betty shared her love and support with many others as Jeff Sommer, Peter Hurst, Jim Silbernagel and the entire Eufaula High School girls’ basketball team can attest.
Betty was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, her brother Bruce, sister-in-law Leota (Starr) Birkeland, daughter-in-law Aurie Lawrence, and an infant child. She is survived by her children Diana (Roger) Ryan of Sioux Falls, Alan Lawrence of Watertown, Timothy (Linnaea) Lawrence of River Falls, WI, and Tricia (Jon) Merrigan of Sioux Falls; 13 grandchildren (Alex Ryan, Emily Lawrence, Rebecca Ryan, Matthew Lawrence, Meredith Lawrence, Timothy Alan Lawrence, Nathan Lawrence, Michael Ryan, Jenna Lawrence, Grace Merrigan, Landry Merrigan, Avery Merrigan and Greta Merrigan); great-grandchild, Maximus Lee Ryan and her 2nd great-grandson due in June; sister Nancy (Billy) Fields; brothers Neil (Vickie) Birkeland and Bart (Karen) Birkeland; sister-in-law Beverly Capp Birkeland; brothers and sisters-in-law Barbara and Ruday Stradinger and Beverly and Robert Huckins; aunts Cora Jeffries and Susan Birkeland; 41 cousins; many nieces & nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be made to the UCC Church in her name. 1001 6th Ave. W., Mobridge, SD 57601.
Memorial Service 9:00 am MST/10:00 am CST Saturday, May 12, 2018 at United Congregational Church, Mobridge, SD. Interment to follow 2:00 pm MST/3:00 pm CST at Dupree Cemetery, Dupree, SD.