We gather here this morning to mourn the loss and celebrate and give thanks for the life of Betty Latherow. As we do so we draw our comfort from the Word of God.
I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds. [Psalm 73]
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)
Our comfort this day is found in the Lord. He is the one who gives us strength in the hard times, and He is the one who gives us a reason for hope, even in the face of death. Please pray with me,
Gracious Father, we have strongly mixed emotions today. On the one hand we are grateful that Betty’s suffering is over. We hated to see her life squeezed out of her. Yet, on the other hand, we feel a profound sadness because we have lost a leader, a friend, an anchor for our lives. It is difficult for us to even start to imagine what life will be like without her.
Please grant us your strength today. Help us to remember Betty as the vibrant and healthy person that she was during her life. Help us to cherish this gift that you have given to us. And as we do so, grant us your comfort. We ask in Jesus’ name.
Mrs. Betty Hungate Latherow, was born August 11, 1922 near Blandinsville, Illinois, the daughter of William and Bernice Lenix Hungate. Betty was a product of the Depression and moved a great deal when she was young. She even lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming for awhile.
Betty and her brother Bill, had lots of fun together. Once they got in trouble because as toddlers they thought it would be fun to paint the new black family car RED. They enjoyed sports, games, card playing and lots of activity. Apparently, Betty even played the banjo and yodeled a time or two. She was a good whistler.
On June 26, 1940 she married Clifford B. Latherow. Cliff was actually her teacher and she was married shortly after High School graduation (she would want it pointed out that she was almost 18). She had a great time with Cliff; he was the love of her life. During World War II he was called to serve in the Navy and she wrote him faithfully every day. She delivered Linda while he was gone. While Clifford served in the Navy, Betty served at home. She took in washing and ironing for others as a way to do her part. She loved to iron right up to her death.
She and Cliff loved going to WIU basketball games. They had season tickets and she continued going to games even after he died. She enjoyed the twelve years Cliff served as a State Senator. She wasn’t deeply into the political world but did learn to enjoy the people. Betty had a great memory for names and faces. She never missed a Republican Women’s gathering. She served on the Executive Board of the Hancock County Republican Women and was their past President. She remained a loyal party member and voted in the last election just a couple of weeks ago even though she was weak.
Cliff preceded Betty in death on October 25, 1994. When he died, a part of her died with him. However, she moved forward and remained active in life.
She and Cliff lived near Fountain Green, Illinois for many years before moving to LaHarpe in 1983. Betty wanted to move to LaHarpe to be close to the Grandkids and their various activities.
She was supportive of Western Illinois University and their athletic programs. She was a member of numerous bridge and social clubs and was also a member, Trustee and past Deacon of the Fountain Green Presbyterian Church. She enjoyed gardening and attending ball games.
Betty Latherow died on Friday, May 4th. She is Survived by one daughter, Linda (David) Wilson of Long Beach, Indiana, two sons: Don (Peggy) Latherow of Carthage, Illinois and Jerry (Dr. Kerstin) Latherow of Chicago, Illinois, 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren and a whole host of friends.
She was preceded in death by her husband, her grandson, Dannen Latherow, her brother, William Hungate and her parents.
Betty Latherow was a special lady. When you looked at her eyes there always seemed to be a sparkle. She had a wonderfully playful spirit and was always concerned about others.
Betty loved her family. She was justifiably proud of her children, yet she wasn’t one to brag. She worked hard in raising them and made sure she was at every event or activity in which they participated. She tried to attend every special event even after the family was scattered. Most of the time she brought her famous homemade noodles with her when she went to visit family.
Each year Betty would make Soup and Ham and Beans to take out to the hunters in the cabin. She did this every year until last year. She loved doing things for her family.
Her grandchildren were the light of her life. She enjoyed having them come to stay at her home. She loved having them play games in the yard or indoors, eat meals, watch TV or having the opportunity to pick them up after school. One of her joys was spending time holding the twins or having Brandon sneak into bed with her to cuddle or spend the night. She loved their wit and energy. She enjoyed seeing that red hair pop up in another generation. Her freezer and pantry held her Grandchildren’s favorite snacks: pizza, cookies, Diet Coke and she always had a well-supplied candy dish for quick visits. Many kids from the Fountain Green area used her home as their stop over point before a practice or game.
One Christmas recently Betty made a recipe file for all the Grandkids of her favorite recipes. When there was a family meal Grandma never sat down until everyone had eaten. She wanted to be available to get what anyone else might need. She fixed herself a plate when others were finished eating. Betty never seemed happier than when she was with her Grandkids. Consequently, Dannen’s death stole some of that sparkle from her eyes.
Betty was up on all the world and local events. She read thoroughly at least three papers a day. She knew what was going on in the world and would often call Don at 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning to read him a pertinent box score from one of those papers. Betty often cut out various news articles on some of the kids she knew and she would send those articles to them.
Betty also loved her dogs. The most pampered of those dogs was her beloved Schnauzer, Missy. Wherever Betty went, Missy went. It didn’t matter if she was going to the farm, to visit Linda and David, or Jerry and Kerstin in Chicago, Betty and Missy were companions. I don’t know if Missy realized what a good thing she had.
Betty enjoyed all basketball games but especially enjoyed watching Western games and enjoyed watching the Illini in person or on television. When she was watching the Illini on television she was an enthusiastic fan. She was known to talk to the television. When they were behind in a game she would ask “What in the world was the matter with them?” When they won, she always had a big smile. Betty was a Cub fan which means she didn’t smile a lot during baseball season.
Truth is, Betty loved all sports. She attended seemingly all the grade school and high school sporting events. Roger Jackson remembers Betty rushing to LaHarpe with he and Jerry in the ’59 Buick to get to a Little League Baseball game. She read lots of newspapers but always seemed to dig out the Sports Section first.
Betty loved the outdoors. She enjoyed her yard work. You would often see her working in her yard with one of Cliff’s or Don’s old feed jackets on. She enjoyed raising both flowers and vegetables. She loved going out to the farm.
Betty liked to be on the go. She liked to “sleep in her own bed” at night but she loved being out and about during the day. She also liked to get where she was going quickly! Some suggest she occasionally exceeded the speed limit.
Betty was a sociable woman but also a humble and private woman. She was willing to visit and help others but she was not one to talk a great deal about herself. She would be so embarrassed by all this carrying on today. She would rather take on a task herself than ask someone else to help her. She was always quick to volunteer and reluctant to ask for help.
She was always doing something. People remember her faithfully coming into Fountain Green to check on her mom and Aunt Peggy. She was faithful to regularly go visit friends (like Mable Towler or June Jackson) who were sick. No matter how much she did, she always wished she could do more. She tried to help in tangible ways by watering flowers, walking the neighbor’s dogs and cats when they were gone. I’m told she cared for the neighbor’s guinea pig, fish, and plants. She always brought the mail and newspaper in to her neighbor Roberta Haines. She was always quick to share cookies and could often be seen around town delivering sweet corn to people (including me). She had a servant’s heart.
Betty was a faithful woman. She was deeply involved in the church, never allowed alcohol to touch her lips, and she did as much as she could to reach out to the hurting people around her. One of Betty’s prize belongings was her Bible. She was active in her church and was always willing to provide food, help with the ice cream social, or help with funeral dinners. It was common to see her scurrying around the church kitchen. If there was a job that needed to be done, Betty was more than willing to try to get it done.
Betty Latherow gave of herself to the community. She opened her house at Christmas time to her neighbors. She attended recitals for Rebecca and Mary Ann McKoon, as if they were her own grandchildren. She sampled their endeavors in the kitchen and enjoyed “snowday” pancake breakfasts with the McKoon family. She even attended family parties. She enjoyed her daily walks with Janet.
When other neighbors were going through a hard time, Betty was there with food, support, and kind words. She was quick to notice the various renovations and upgrades to the homes in Park Lane. She was a great neighbor. Whenever you ran into Betty she always seemed to have time to visit with you.
She volunteered to listen to first graders read, she followed the Eagle, Thunder, and Cyclone teams and supported the schools in any way possible. In so many ways she was a community icon. So many people knew her and had first hand experience with her grace and kindness.
As a family, I know your loss is profound. And though our loss is different, we truly do share your loss.
As we so fondly remember Betty, I also want to remind you of the hope that we find in the Bible. Once, a friend of Jesus by the name of Lazarus died. When Jesus arrived to “pay his respects” it was already three days after his death. The sisters of Lazarus came out to greet Jesus but they were a little upset. Jesus had healed others and when it seemed that their brother really needed him . . . He wasn’t there.
Jesus knew he was shortly going to bring Lazarus back from the dead. But before he did so, he wanted to take advantage of this “teachable moment”. He said to the sisters,
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
These are the very words that we need to hear today. We need to hear the declaration and consider the question that He asked. Jesus declared that there is life beyond the grave. This, of course is what we all want to believe. We want to believe that there is an existence beyond what we see. And there are times we wonder if this belief isn’t just wishful thinking. We know that wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true. But by the same token, wanting something to be true, doesn’t mean that it is false either.
I believe Jesus proved that there is life beyond the grave. His resurrection from the grave (which I believe is more than adequately attested by the evidence) proves that there is life beyond the grave. We believe people can survive heart surgery because we have met those who are survivors. We believe some cancers can be cured because we have met cancer survivors. In much the same way, we believe in Heaven and life beyond the grave because Jesus rose from the dead and told us that it is true. The Apostle Paul is so bold as to say, “If Christ is not raised then we are to be pitied over all men.”
Jesus tells us how to secure this life beyond the grave. He said, that we must believe in Him. As you read through the Bible you will see that “belief” according to the Bible is much more than mental assent. It is true that we need to understand who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish by dying on the cross. We need to understand that we cannot earn God’s favor; it is something we are given as a gift of God’s grace. But simply declaring this truth is not Biblical belief. The belief that Jesus talks about is a willingness to “bet our lives” on the truth of Jesus. It is the willingness to entrust ourselves to Him and follow Him in the way we live our lives. This is the kind of belief that God requires!
Second, Jesus asks a critical question of the sisters (and to us): Do YOU believe this? In the final analysis, it doesn’t matter what Paul believes, or what the church believes. What matters is whether or not YOU believe the truth of the gospel. If you don’t believe in life beyond the grave through Christ, then this day is hollow and empty. As you sit here, life must seem so utterly meaningless. A good woman gives of herself to others and then is struck down by cancer. What’s the point? Without a true belief in Jesus, we are only here for a few years and then we are gone. In such a case it is easy to be overwhelmed by despair.
However, if you do believe what Jesus said, then this day takes on a different light. It is still difficult, we still grieve, but we do not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. As we say Good-bye to Betty we are really saying, “See you later!” We are sad at the parting but we are confident that we will see each other again in the home of the King. It feels more like that ache that comes when your child moves away from home.
Did Betty believe? You bet she did. She understood the truth and held to it with all she was worth. The love of Christ was in her. She reached out to others because she knew what it was like to be loved by God. She didn’t preach many sermons with her words, but she certainly preached them with her life! When Betty faced heartache she refused to despair. She held on to her faith with greater tenacity in the confidence that God must have had a reason and a plan for the things that happened . . . even if she had no idea what that plan might be.
I can’t help but smile as I think of Betty in Heaven. I believe she is already with the Lord. I believe she has thrilled to see Cliff, Dannen, and her parents. She has renewed her friendship with June and many others who have gone before her. I suspect the twinkle in her eye is more pronounced than ever before. The pain is gone. She understands those mysteries of her life. Her questions are answered. She sees clearly and what she has seen thrills her soul. Now she is home with her Lord. What a wonderful meeting that must have been. I suspect Jesus threw open His arms and said, “Welcome Home! Well Done!”
The question for us today is this same question Jesus posed to Mary and Martha: “Do you believe this?” Faith is no longer theoretical. Now it is either practical and real or it is not. I encourage you to use this time of loss to address the ultimate issues of your life. Instead of ignoring the truth of the Bible, embrace it. Put your confidence in Christ or will you be left to simply engage in wishful thinking or sink deep into despair. Don’t believe simply to cope better . . . believe because it is the truth. This is the most important issue of life and eternity. Hold tight to His promise. Draw comfort from His grace until that day when we are together again.
And as I conclude let me remind you of some of the wonderful lessons God tried to teach us through Betty.
- Family is a jewel to be cherished
- Life is short so take in all you can take in
- You don’t have to stop being a fun person simply because you’re older.
- We can fight each other, ignore each other, or we can help each other. The greatest reward comes from lending a hand to those around us.
- You can’t change the outcome of a game by screaming at the TV or yelling at the players on the court, but for some reason it does make you feel better.
- We are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone. If we truly entrust ourselves to God’s undeserved grace (a prerequisite for salvation) we will subsequently be changed in our compassion toward others.
- You don’t have to be flashy to impact the people around you. All you have to do is truly care.
- Grandchildren can be a burden or a treasure; it all depends on your attitude.
- There is nothing quite as nice as a crisply ironed piece of clothing.
- Difficult things come into our lives. We can give up or we can find a way to keep going. We can despair or we can grow deep. One way robs us of life, the other helps us to find it.
- Even though someone we love may die; they can still impact and bless us for the rest of our lives.
Let’s pray together,
Gracious Father, how blessed we have been through the life of Betty Latherow. Thank you for her spirit, her love, her compassion, and her rich example. We ask you to keep our memories of her sharp. Help us to be spurred on in our own lives by the example she set for us.
I ask that you comfort this family. They have taken such good care of Betty. They have suffered a huge loss and I ask that you fill their emptiness with your strength and your grace. Stir up in them a fervent and sure hope that is anchored to the testimony of your Son, Jesus. Lead us all to that point of faith that will allow us to know that we will live, even though we die.
Welcome Betty into your glorious Kingdom. Restore her, love her and keep her as only you can. Help us to keep going until that day when you bring us all together again in the place that you have prepared for us. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen