Obituary: Elizabeth "Bette" O'Donnell, 1928-2019 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Elizabeth "Bette" O'Donnell, 1928-2019 

Published February 22, 2019 at 5:30 a.m. | Updated February 22, 2019 at 11:37 a.m.

click to enlarge Elizabeth "Bette" O'Donnell
  • Elizabeth "Bette" O'Donnell

Elizabeth "Bette" O'Donnell passed away peacefully surrounded by family and friends in her Burlington home on February 9, 2019, one day after her 91st birthday.

Bette was a "grand" lady who was loved by her family and many friends everywhere she lived.

Bette was born Elizabeth Constance Coleman in Shamokin, Pa., on February 8, 1928, to John and Mary (Ginley) Coleman. She lived in Girardville, Pa., as a young child and later moved to Philadelphia, where she graduated from Gwynnedd Mercy Academy in 1946. She was a proud Mercy Girl for the rest of her life. During World War II, Bette served as a volunteer Candy Stripe girl and developed an interest in the nursing profession. She attended the nursing program at Fitzgerald Mercy Hospital and graduated as a registered nurse. Bette faced family hardship during this time, as her beloved father, John, and dear mother, "Mame," passed away. She was loved dearly by her older sister Mary and many beloved aunts and uncles.

Bette had fond memories of her years growing up and was proud of her Irish heritage. She loved sharing stories about her upbringing and the colorful lives of her Irish American relatives in Pennsylvania coal country.

She met the love of her life, Joe O'Donnell, and they were married in St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church in in Upper Darby, Pa., on September 25, 1953. Her first two boys, Joe Jr. and John, were born in Philadelphia, then Joe's employer transferred him and the family to Plattsburgh, N.Y., in 1958. Bette and Joe had three more children, James, Bridget and Terence. While in Plattsburgh, she worked as a nurse at Physician's Hospital.

In 1965, Joe was transferred to his employer's Montréal headquarters, and the family lived in the suburbs of Beaconsfield and Pointe Claire, where Bette and Joe made many lifelong friends. Bette worked as a geriatric care nurse at several facilities including several years at the Maimonides Geriatric Center. Bette and Joe enjoyed entertaining and exploring the city of Montréal and surrounding areas.

Bette and Joe loved traveling and made many trips in Canada and the U.S. — and particularly loved vacations to seaside locations like Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore, Maine and Virginia Beach. Bette was a history lover and enjoyed visiting sites in Colonial Williamsburg, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. Bette and Joe traveled to Ireland in 1977, where they explored family history, found Irish relatives and had a grand time.

In 1978, Bette and Joe moved to Burlington when Joe's company opened a facility in Williston. The family settled in the New North End, where they made many more lifelong friends. Bette worked as a geriatric nurse at the Pillars in Shelburne and retired from active nursing after her beloved Joe retired in 1992.

Bette and Joe became active members of the Burlington community in their retirement, volunteering with Meals on Wheels and the Ethan Allen Homestead. When Joe passed away in June 1997, Bette remained a very committed and caring citizen of Burlington, always taking on new volunteer activities with a smile on her face. She served as a reading buddy at Burlington's Flynn School, where she delighted the young students with a love of books and reading. She was a Mercy associate, a member of the board at the Heineberg Senior Center and a past president of the Ladies of St. Mark's Catholic Parish, and she worked at the welcome center at the Ethan Allen Homestead.

In her later years, Bette indulged in her beloved travel, especially to Ireland, Scotland, England, Nova Scotia and Maine. Bette toured England and London and had a "grand" trip to Ireland with her children, where they found many family heritage sites in County Donegal and the west coast of Ireland. Bette's last overseas trip was a tour of Edinburgh and the Highlands of Scotland accompanied by her son Joe. She lived life to its fullest.

Bette remained active in her community well into her eighties. She was able to remain in her home, thanks to care provided by her devoted children Bridget and Joe. The family would like to thank the agencies that provided care and assistance in her in her last years, including TLC care providers, the VNA staff, University of Vermont Home Health and Hospice nurses, and the ministry of St. Mark's Church, led by Fr. Dallas St. Peter. The family especially would like to thank Sister Marie, whose weekly visits were a great comfort to Bette in her last few years.

Bette is survived by her son Joseph Jr. of Burlington; her son John and his wife, Ilza, of Arlington, Mass.; James and his wife, Sharon Wilson, and their children, Bette's beloved grandchildren, Rory and Fiona of Melrose, Mass.; and daughter Bridget of Burlington. Bette was predeceased by her husband, Joe Sr., and her youngest son, Terence.

Bette also leaves many dear and beloved friends. There are too many to name them all, but her dear friend Valerie Fuller and the Fuller clan played a special role in Bette's life. She was also very close to her dear friends Shirley and Faye from the "Silver Foxes" YMCA exercise group. As the "Queen of the Edgemoor Palace," Bette will never be forgotten by her good friends Jack and Pam Hesford and their boys, John and Samuel, who grew up with "Mrs. O'D" always in their lives. Christmas was a special time for Bette, and at the "Edgemoor Palace" she presided over many Christmas Eve gatherings and Christmas dinners through the years. In recent years, "the Hesford boys" also brought their partners — John's wife, Rhiannon, and Sam's girlfriend, Stephanie Lemieux — who both became very close to Bette and were very comforting in her last years. Bette treated everyone who came to 135 Edgemoor like family, and she will be greatly missed by all.

Visiting hours were on Wednesday February 13, 2019 at the Ready Funeral Home South Chapel, 261 Shelburne Rd., Burlington, VT. A Mass of Christian burial was held on Thursday February 14, 2019, at St. Mark Catholic Church, 1251 North Ave., Burlington, VT. Burial followed the Mass at Lakeview Cemetery on North Avenue in the O’Donnell family lot.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas 15 Highland Ave., Cumberland, RI 02864. To place online condolences, please visit

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