Our deeply loved matriarch, Emilie Elizabeth “Betty” Hartnett, 103, died Friday, January 10, in the presence of family at the home in which she was raised in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Born on June 17, 1916 in Glens Falls, New York to Almira Smith Morgan and Robert Everett McNally, Betty moved with her parents to Lake Geneva when her father accepted a job as YMCA Secretary in 1918. Betty attended Lake Geneva Public Schools and graduated from Wellesley College in l938.
Following graduation, Betty taught at Holland Hall in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After the outbreak of World War II, Betty worked for the Red Cross in Chicago. She met Captain William Hartnett, a Chicago native and Army Air Corps pilot, who had recently returned from duty in England. They married on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1944 in front of the fireplace in her parents’ home.
The newlyweds moved to Barksdale Field in Shreveport, Louisiana where Captain Hartnett taught flying. Following Captain Hartnett’s discharge from the Army Air Corps, the couple moved to Charlottesville, Virginia where Mr. Hartnett attended the University of Virginia Law School. After moves to Woodstock, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri, the couple settled in rural Lake County, Illinois, where they lived for 35 years. Mr. Hartnett opened a law practice in Waukegan. The couple was active in Democratic politics. Mr. Hartnett served in the Illinois General Assembly.
Betty taught for decades at the WJ Murphy School in Round Lake, Illinois, where she was a beloved teacher and an admired colleague and mentor. She influenced hundreds of children who, over the years, passed through her second grade classroom. When she retired, she was the oldest teacher in the Round Lake school system. Mrs. Hartnett was a member of St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Grayslake, Illinois.
Betty and Bill moved back to Lake Geneva to care for Betty’s mother. Betty taught reading to adults, traveled throughout the United States and to Europe, worked in her garden, volunteered at the Lake Geneva Museum, and was an active member of The Church of the Holy Communion, serving on its vestry. Until 2016, she was Secretary of the Chapin Foundation of Lake Geneva board whose philanthropy supports many libraries, churches and schools in the lakes area. In addition, she relished her role as grandmother and great-grandmother. Her home was a gathering place for all of her family, friends and neighbors. People were drawn to her kindness. When asked to describe their grandmother, her grandchildren used words like perfect, thoughtful, honest, a really good cook, a bird watcher, poised, elegant, wise, nature lover, infinitely energetic, generous, beautiful, smart, contemplative, and loving.
Mentally sharp until her last hours, Betty was a great reader who subscribed to The New York Times, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Lake Geneva Regional News and The New Yorker magazine and a frequent patron of the Lake Geneva Public Library. She inspired her family to an openness of thought, a curiosity about the world and an acceptance of others.
Betty was predeceased by her young daughter Merry Alice, her parents, her husband Bill, and her brothers Bob and Steve. She is survived by her daughter, Emilie Downs (Clark) of Chevy Chase, MD and Alford, MA, her son Jeffrey (Diana) of St. Louis, MO and Deer Isle, ME, her son William (Patricia) of Lake Forest, IL and her daughter Elizabeth Hartnett (Matthew White) of Silver Spring, MD. Betty is also survived by her grandchildren Morgan O’Donnell (Sean), Julia Downs (Karl Jurisson), Abigail Trembowicz (Mike), Christopher Hartnett, Emilie Roviaro (Tony), Andrew Hartnett (Abigail), Kara Eldridge (John), Elizabeth Santamaria (Jason), Thaddeus and Everett White and O’Connor Hartnett and great-grandchildren Liam Hartnett, Gavin Robertson, Jack and Mattison Trembowicz, Brendan Roviaro, Peter and Catherine Hartnett, and Joseph Eldridge.
The family is grateful to Shelley Wiese, Lorraine Sieker and Peg Williams whose sustaining friendships and companionship were so important to Betty. The family also appreciates the staff and nurses at Aurora at Home, especially Bev, Candy and Kay, and occasional caregivers, Jutta, Sandy and Shawn for their skillful attention and many kindnesses.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Wellesley College General Scholarship Fund, Development Office, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481, The Lake Geneva Public Library, 518 W. Main Street, Lake Geneva, WI 53147, The Church of the Holy Communion, 320 Broad Street, Lake Geneva, WI 53147, The Lake Geneva YMCA, 203 S. Wells St., Lake Geneva, WI 53147. Another way to remember her is to sit on Betty’s bench in Library Park, to enjoy Geneva Lake, where Betty once walked, swam, skated, tobogganed, fished and sailed, or to admire the spring blooming of yellow cowslips near the entrance to Big Foot Beach State Park, an annual sight that Betty loved.
A memorial service to honor Betty will be held in the springtime at the Church of the Holy Communion. The date and time will be posted on the Derrick Funeral Home website, as well as in the church bulletin.
To send flowers to Emilie "Betty" Elizabeth (McNally) Hartnett's family, please visit our floral section.