Jun 17, 2020, 10:23:17 AM CDT
She could talk to anyone. And she couldn’t be pulled from a party before it was over.
That’s how Nancy Long remembers her mother, Elizabeth “Betty” Farnsworth, who passed away Jan. 22, 2019, at the age of 92.
“She was just a sparkly person,” Nancy said. “She always had a twinkle in her eye, and she always wore beautiful clothing. People knew her as the woman in the Chico clothing and all the jewelry.”
So much jewelry that her family handed out her favorite necklaces and bracelets to Betty’s friends at the retirement home during her memorial service.
A piece of Betty, her friends would tell Nancy as they held up their necklaces.
But a bigger piece of Betty stands along Medical District Drive in Dallas.
Married for more than six decades to James Farnsworth -- former president of Children’s Medical Center Dallas -- Betty was the woman by the side of the man who oversaw the building of the hospital.
She left a planned estate gift of $100,000 to the James Farnsworth Endowment, which helps fund the James J. Farnsworth Health Career Scholarship Program at Children’s Health to financially support students planning careers in pediatric health care.
“Education was a big deal to my parents,” said Nancy, as she flipped through old photos of her mom scattered on her kitchen table. There was one of Betty standing next to Nancy’s oldest daughter at her wedding. Another of Betty in a flowy, floor-length purple gown with James at their 40th wedding anniversary party.
“Without an education, my parents would have been farmers living in rural Oklahoma, and they wanted out of small-town America. They wanted to help others who had big dreams,” Nancy said.
James and Betty met in high school before James joined the U.S. Army in 1943 and served in the South Pacific Theater during World War II. He asked Betty to marry him in a telegram (she didn’t keep the note) and were wedded shortly after he returned from war in 1946.
The couple moved to Oklahoma City in 1948 for James’ engineering job, but he didn’t want to build bridges for the rest of his life.
So, they hitched a wooden cart to the back of their car and toted their few belongings to St. Louis, Mo., for James to pursue his Masters in Hospital Administration at Washington University in St. Louis. There, James and Betty bought a plastic table and chairs. They converted the wooden cart into a bookcase.
“That was all they had, but they had great times,” Nancy said. “Their lives were full of laughter.”
The Farnsworths relocated to Dallas when James was offered a hospital administration residency at Baylor University Medical Center and stayed when he was offered an assistant hospital administrator position. James became president of Children’s Medical Center in October 1954.
During his more than three decades as president, he was tasked with bringing together several smaller hospitals to create the current Children’s Medical Center Dallas – what is now the flagship hospital of Children’s Health.
“My brother and I had the mumps, so we had to sit in the car while mom was down with a crowd of doctors and administrators for the groundbreaking,” Nancy said. From the car, Nancy and her brother, Jim, could hear the tapping of little hammers against stakes outlining the perimeter of where Children’s Medical Center Dallas would soon stand.
Even after James passed away in 2008, Betty continued to attend Children’s Health events, including the annual Bradford Society lunch that honors those who have named Children’s Medical Center Foundation as a beneficiary in their estate plans.
Last year, Jim, his wife, Becky, and Nancy attended the event in Betty’s honor.
“She felt like this was her hospital,” Nancy said. “When she met someone, she’d say, ‘I am James Farnsworth’s wife, and he built Children’s.’ She felt a big connection to having been part of that process and was proud of him.”
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