Elizabeth “Betty” Oliva, 81, of Rochester passed away peacefully on Friday December 7, 2012.
Betty was born into the Great Depression to Margaret and Edward Brown in Ithaca, New York, where she developed her sense of adventure and her physical stamina by making her way up and down that town’s great hills. The youngest sister to Priscilla, Edward, Kenneth, Shirley and Marilyn, Betty learned to sew, while a young girl, in order to have a wardrobe that extended beyond hand-me-downs. Her zest for life and her creativity helped her forge her own path by first working as an au pair while attending Ithaca High School, and later as a telephone operator downtown, where she would go over to the YMCA and swim during her lunch breaks.
Betty left Ithaca in 1950 when she joined the Air Force and met her husband of 58 years, Girard F. “Gerry” Oliva, while training to be a radio operator. Thus began a 21 year adventure in military life, crossing the globe while raising a family of five children on a shoestring budget, moving every couple of years, piecing together a life that was nevertheless abundant, happy and full of beauty.
Betty and Gerry settled in Mattapoisett in 1970, where Gerry taught and coached football, track and cross- country at Old Rochester Regional High School. An avid sports fan and supporter, Betty never missed a game and could commonly be heard bellowing from the stands, “Go Bulldogs!” She also did administrative work at the high school, and was an integral part of the team that founded the Mattapoisett Road Race, an event she helped run for over 30 years. In 2006, she and her husband retired to The Pines in Rochester, becoming part of a beloved community of friends.
Although Betty lost her husband and best friend in 2008, she forged ahead and continued to be the heart of her large family: her children Michael, Deborah Moriarty, Jeri-Lynne Gilling, Frank, Tony and their spouses. The cherished ‘Nonni’ to 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, she led a life of optimism, generosity, kindness and laughter.
Betty lost her heroic 34-year battle with breast cancer on December 7, and she will be dearly missed. A wake and funeral service for Betty will be held at Saunders-Dwyer Mattapoisett Home for Funerals, 50 County Rd., Roure 6, Mattapoisett on Wednesday December 19, from 3 pm to 6 pm. The Oliva family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Rochester Council On Aging, 67 Dexter Lane, Rochester, Ma., 02770.