PORTLAND – Elizabeth “Betty” White enjoyed a variety of crafts, whether it was skilled Swedish weaving or turning an everyday item into a piece of art.

“She’d always save things, plastic milk bottles or containers that things came in, and decorating these things and making different, fun crafts,” said her son Alan White. “It was the enjoyment of creating something out of everyday things.”

Mrs. White took her crafts to the Cumberland and Fryeburg fairs, and took home many blue ribbons, said her daughter Nancy Ripley.

She took the most pride in her intricate pieces of Swedish weaving, Ripley said. Mrs. White even taught the craft for a few years, hoping to keep the art alive in the community.

Mrs. White died Sunday. She was 93.

Originally from Waterville, she moved to Portland when Alan White, her youngest of six children, was just 3.

As a single mother, she dedicated her time to “trying to keep (her children) growing up in the right direction” and working full time, her son said.

Sometimes, she took side work as a seamstress or part-time jobs to provide for her children, her daughter said.

“She worked because she had a lot of responsibility with that many kids,” Ripley said.

Over the course of her career, she worked for Hunnewell Trucking Co., the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf and the W.T. Grant department store in Portland.

At the Baxter School, Mrs. White was a type of housemother to the children, taking care of students in the evenings, said her son.

Often, Mrs. White brought children to her house on weekends or for holidays, if they couldn’t go home to their families, her daughter said.

Later in life, she volunteered as a foster grandparent at Portland’s Presumpscot School, just up the street from where she lived. Her daughter said she volunteered there through her mid-80s.

“The kids adored her and made her stuff,” Ripley said, and many stayed in touch with Mrs. White.

Her son said most people who knew his mother always spoke highly of her.

He thinks it may have been because of her ability to be a good listener, taking in what someone had to say before offering her thoughts or advice. “She was a wonderfully nice person,” he said.

The family shares many memories of Christmas at “Nana’s” when Mrs. White’s children were all grown and had children of their own.

Her six children and 18 grandchildren shared holiday time in the small living and dining room area of Mrs. White’s house, her daughter said. Most of the gifts she gave were handmade crafts suited for the children or knitted works for the adults, her son said.

Home movies that her son found recently show the family gatherings back into the 1950s and 1960s. “You could see all the things she made for Christmas gifts,” he said.

“(Christmas at Nana’s) left a lot of good memories to a lot of her grandchildren,” her daughter said.


Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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