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Betty Jean Wulff, of Akron, Ohio, fell asleep in the Lord on December 16, 2018. She leaves behind family and friends warmer, stronger and better for having been with her.
Family history tells that four-year-old Betty stole away from her Akron home one day and precociously started elementary school on her own. Her early admission was the first spark in a life that would only grow in intensity. Betty graduated Garfield High School and then finished Ohio State University in three years with degrees in Fine Arts and Spanish. The diploma ink barely dry, Betty took a second to enchant a young Akronite named Norman Wulff before jetting off on a self-guided tour of Spain. Left in her wake, but hopelessly in her orbit, Norman clung to Betty’s jet wash until she finally returned to Akron. This time, aiming to slow her down, but probably knowing he just needed to tighten his seatbelt, Norman proposed marriage. And for the next 50 years, he was Betty Jean’s co-pilot and navigator – at least in name. Because Betty Jean raced ahead of everyone – learning, laughing and loving. The schedule was her own. Obstacles and difficulties were mere yellow-light suggestions. And the ride was ridden with the volume up, the color enhanced and her hands firmly outside of the car. The only thing Betty Jean ever stopped for was to put on her lipstick.
The daughter of Macedonian immigrants, Betty took great pride in her family’s history and traditions. She lovingly passed these on to her children, Eric and Becky and grandchildren in the form of stories about Coocumbecha, songs, bits of language about goshdi and guzzos and recipes filled with phyllo and feta. But as much as Betty loved her heritage, she welcomed the chance not just to learn about others, but to share in the experiences and joys of life everywhere. Arriving at a location, be it a grocery store, concert venue, open house or foreign land, she would pause for a second, freshen her lipstick and then spring from the sometimes still moving vehicle to address the task or adventure ahead.
She had a sharp intellect with a fearless engaging spirit. Nobody remained a stranger. Betty had a standing invitation to visit an heiress in England because she helped a stranger pick out a coat in a Florida thrift store. She traveled extensively with her family to Europe and Hawaii and throughout the United States. She could talk with knowledge about the art and history in Paris and London and then marvel and laugh at the cows braying in the English Countryside. Even at home in Akron, Betty sought out whatever life had to offer. It’s why five years ago she and her sister Jeannette touched up their lipstick and went to a house that called itself a spa to be wound up in ace bandages and air dried by box fans. Nobody laughed harder at that story than Betty. Because Betty grabbed life in all its forms, extracted the joy and threw away the rest.
Bearing a naturally keen eye for art, architecture, and style, Betty worked as a realtor where she combined those talents with her tireless work ethic an innate ability to learn about people. Often her customers would call almost stunned that they were so in love with a house that she had found them. She and Norman prowled antique stores looking for that diamond in the rough, and together they appointed their own tasteful, unique homes. Nothing made her happier than finding a gift that she knew was just right for someone. Tell her you couldn’t find the Mickey Mouse Playhouse for her grandchild, and she’d find it and offer to get it – in Wisconsin. Say you needed a chandelier, and she’d find one made of sticks that she knew you’d love. And now when you see it in her house – you do sort of love it.
Betty Jean loved to cook. Her menus spanned Macedonian to elegant continental to fridge leftover hold’em. All were delicious, and all were borne from kitchens left resembling fire-bombed cities. Glassware quaked at her approach and measuring cups went looking for work. Her dinner parties were legendary with the food plentiful to the point that the kitchen clean-up crew, headed by Norman, would often find an untouched dish, left lonely in the oven. And Betty would remember “I did make sweet potatoes,” and she would laugh and laugh.
Nothing made her laugh and brought her joy more than her family, however. She would move mountains to ensure their happiness. She was devoted to her mother, Rebecca, her children’s Baba. She took Baba back to her native village in Macedonia and ultimately cared for her in her own home. She offered advice, solace, love and support to nephews and nieces, brothers and sisters. “I’ll bring some food, I’ll sell your house, I’ll get you to the doctor, Come stay with us. I’ll set you up with a nice girl.” She always did what she said, and then she’d laugh and see who needed something next.
More than anything in her life, Betty Jean Wulff loved her husband, Norman, her son, Eric and her daughter, Becky. It was a love that you could feel like the hot sun in the heaviest days of summer. A love that you knew had no conditions. They both embody her in their single-minded determination, their dedication to family and their desire to see people happy. Becky always puts on her lipstick. In later years Betty welcomed a son and a daughter in law and then, joyously, perhaps the only things that could embrace life with a love and vigor equal to her own – three grandsons and a granddaughter. Two weekends ago these grandchildren and many family gathered with Betty and Norm in a typical family get together. Food was abundant, the kitchen lay in ruins, advice was given, and the children’s laughter mixed with Betty’s. Her lipstick was perfect.
The youngest child of Andrew and Rebecca Palcheff, Betty was a devoted daughter to her parents. She loved her husband, Norman; son, Eric (Jenn); daughter, Rebecca (Dr. Kenneth Lucas III); grandchildren, Colin, Connor, Marlise and Wilson; siblings, Jeannette Ritzman and Carl Palcheff; as well as many other loving family and friends.
A funeral service will be held at 11:30 A.M. on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at St. Elia The Prophet Orthodox Church, 64 W. Wilbeth Road, Akron, Ohio 44301 with Very Rev. Don Freude officiating. Family and friends may call on Friday from 3 to 7:30 P.M. at Schermesser Funeral Home, 600 E. Turkeyfoot Lake Rd. (SR 619), Akron, Ohio 44319 with the Parastas service taking place at 7:30 P.M. Burial will be at Rose Hill Burial Park. Memorial contributions may be made in Betty’s name to the church. To leave a special message online for the family, visit our website at www.schermesserfh.com