EULOGY FOR BETTE WELCH
MARCH 17, 2015, CHURCH OF THE ASSUMPTION
My name is Richard Sacher, and I am Bette’s oldest brother. Matt has asked me to share a few of my family memories of Bette, with all of you.
I was 13 years old, and we were living in Jersey City, when Bettylou was born. Bette was named for her grandmothers, Eizabeth and Louise.
With four older brothers, Richard, Bobby, Tommy and Jerry, Bette was destined to learn very quickly how to compete with all the boys in the house. Looking back now, I can see that this was a powerful influence on her as she grew into a young adult. Bette was still a baby when we left Jersey City for the country…and we moved to Sayreville, N.J.
As a child, Bette could be very fussy about what foods she would eat, and I often could not get her to drink her orange juice. One day I decided to pour her orange juice into a tall beer glass, topped off with a nice thick head of whipped eggwhites. That did the trick…as long as the juice looked like that tall glass of beer that Dad always enjoyed, Bette would drink it.
This brilliant deception backfired badly when Bette was being evaluated for entrance into first grade. When the psychologist asked Bette, “What do you do with an egg?”, Bette answered, “You put it in orange juice.” This was why Bette flunked her first grade entrance exam, and thanks to me, was held back for a year. I have been hearing complaints about this ever since!
I soon graduated from St Mary’s High School in South Amboy, and I left home to enter a monastery to become a Trappist monk. After four years of Latin and Greek, singing and praying, theology and scripture, I returned home to begin college at Rutgers where I majored in horticulture. By this time, Bette was a young teenager.
I remember how every Christmas, when I would drive out to the woods in search of a Christmas tree, Bette would beg to go along. We would find a suitable spruce or juniper tree to cut down…and Bette always wanted to have the last few swings of the axe, so SHE could make the tree fall to the ground. Our house had cathedral ceilings, but the trees were always too big, and we struggled to get them home.
When Bette was in high school, she managed to get a summer job pumping gas at a service station. It was on route 9, near Peterpank diner. I remember thinking that this was a very odd job for a girl to have.
Later on, Bette was working at Eli Lily Company, in the packaging department. When she found out that the forklift drivers were making a lot more money than she was (and THEY were sitting down all day, too!) Bette insisted in applying for that job…and she got it.
I was finished with college and living in New Orleans when I found out that Bette had been chosen for the very first, all female class at the training academy for the New Jersey State Police.
I remember thinking: Uh-oh…Bette chops down trees; she pumps gas at a service station; she drives a forklift in a warehouse; and now, she wants to be a cop! It was becoming clear to me…my sister is gay!
Well, obviously, I was confused. As it turned out, I was the one who was gay…and Bette…well, she always knew how to have fun, but still, she was one tough cookie!
I came home for Bette’s graduation from the academy, and I still remember the surreal conversation we were having around the family table: what kind of off duty gun would she need? Which bullet proof vest was better…the Last Chance, or the Point Blank? And what about that billyclub…the one with the built-in flash light? I overheard my Father on the phone, saying, “My oldest son wants to play with flowers…my only daughter wants to be a cop…what did I do wrong?”
Graduation Day at the academy was amazing! A Female recruit was rappelling from a helicopter. Others were demonstrating their martial arts, disarming assailants. Bette was leading her group in vigorous calisthenics and pushups. These 30 women had proven they could take whatever rigorous training the academy demanded of them, and not only survive, but excel in all of it.
But more importantly, by joining the state police, Bette was introduced to Matt Welch.
I remember their wedding. Our dad was gone by then, so I had the honor of giving Bette away. Bette and I were standing in the vestibule in the back of the church, ready to begin our walk down the aisle. She was so nervous, I could hardly believe it. After all, she and Matt had loved each other and lived together for eight years already. She was trying to compose herself, without much success. To help relieve the tension, I started telling her some naughty jokes, all of which are completely inappropriate in a church…and in most other places, too. Bette started to laugh, and finally said, “Okay, Let’s go..but keep those jokes coming.” We start down the aisle, and I whisper, “So, Bette, did you hear about the new obscene breakfast cereal, called prostituties?” That did it. We giggled and laughed our way down the aisle, until we reached Matt at the altar.
On one of Bette and Matt’s many visits to New Orleans, this one almost 25 years ago now, they helped me and my business partner Bill stock the shelves of our brand new gift shop. There were visits for Mardi Gras, for Jazz Fest, for time at our beach house in Mississippi. There were visits for no special occasion at all.
It was only a few months ago that Bette and her friend Jody were visiting us in New Orleans. We did some sight seeing, and then Kevin and I took them to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Muriel’s, on Jackson Square. We had a great evening together, and later that night, Bette called us, all excited. “Guess what was in our hotel room when we checked in…a beautiful picture of the restaurant where we just had dinner…Muriel’s on Jackson Square!”
We are so proud of Bette’s fellow troopers, her cherished friends all these years…especially those women who from the very beginning, were her comrades in arms…right until the end. We are so thankful for Jennifer, David and Ann, who have been angels of comfort to Bette and Matt, and to everyone around them.
All our lives, yours and ours, have connected with Bette in random tangents of time and place, over many years. It is safe to say that many of you know her better, and love her, just as much as we do.
We thank all of you for gathering with us today to celebrate the wonderful life of Bette Welch.