January 13, 1946 - September 19, 2020
Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Diedrich Walker passed away peacefully on Sept. 19, 2020. She was 74.
She was born in Oxnard, California, on Jan. 13, 1946, one of eight siblings. Young Betsy’s brazen exuberance could not be constrained, and consequences ranged from suffering a hernia to crashing a runaway tractor into a woodpile. In her Santa Clara High School yearbook, a photo caption of her as a cheerleader declared “Betsy leaps for joy.”
With German ancestors who settled in Southern California in the 1880s to till the soil, Betsy was a farm girl at heart. But from an early age, her curiosity was piqued by far-off places. The first was Mexico, whose warm winds and vibrant colors enchanted her since a childhood visit with her family. It also was in Mexico that she built her Spanish fluency, the stepping stone into her career in education.
And it was her love of travel that prompted a mutual friend to set her up on a blind date with another world wanderer, Greg Walker, during her days at Seattle University. Betsy and Greg quickly became co-adventurers in life and were married in Seattle in 1967. Four years, an infant, and many countries later, they moved to a 36-acre expanse north of Sandpoint, Idaho.
At their homestead amid livestock and his-and-hers gardens, Betsy lovingly nurtured two children and strived to make her corner of the world a more beautiful place. In the fall, a highlight was making jam from raspberries she picked. The nearby woods were a place she foraged for morel mushrooms and gazed at barred owls, black bears and white-tailed deer. Occasionally, a herd of elk gathered solemnly in the farm’s misty meadow. Throughout her life, she engaged the world around her with a genuine wide-eyed wonderment.
Betsy was often content to take it easy in overalls and bare feet, but she certainly adored costumes. As a teenager in the 1960s, she once drove the length of Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard wearing a gorilla mask. At Easter gatherings of her large and close-knit clan, she was known to appear in a full-body Peter Cottontail suit. She amassed vintage clothing, hats and jewelry over the years, and fervently encouraged family and friends to step outside their comfort zone and embrace an outlandish new look.
This mirthful brand of play was instrumental to her ability to connect with students of all grade levels — as a teacher, a guidance counselor and eventually an administrator at public schools in Sandpoint and beyond. She brought a vivacious flair to her work, whether it was laughing over imaginary lesson plans with colleagues or staging a shaving cream fight among staff members. In California’s Central Valley, she used her Spanish skills to build bridges with students and parents in the migrant farmworker community. One of her favorite events was awards day, where she personally celebrated children for their accomplishments.
Betsy was a respected professional who knew how to skillfully manage the dynamics of a school system. She was central to managing a major remodel of Kootenai Elementary in 2010. Schools and individuals thrived under her leadership.
After retirement, Betsy engaged in new volunteer pursuits, including the Community Assistance League of Sandpoint and the Bonner Community Hospice bereavement group, and embarked on further world travels with Greg and other family members.
It’s no secret that Betsy was always delightfully loopy, but in recent years a cruel dementia took over her mind and body, and her effervescence was flattened. Her loved ones are devastated by the loss but take comfort that dear Betsy, once again, is leaping for joy.
She is survived by her husband, Greg Walker of Sandpoint; children Hon Walker (Scot) of Portland, Oregon, and Holly Walker of Sandpoint; grandchildren Della Rose Wheatcroft and Miles Wheatcroft of Sandpoint; siblings Patsy Miller of Littleton, Colorado, John (Ann) Diedrich of Firebaugh, California, Ellen (Bob) Lizotte of Hope, Idaho, Bill (Karen) Diedrich of Fresno, California, Bob (Pam) Diedrich of Stephenville, Texas, Dan Diedrich of Fresno; sister-in-law Jackie Diedrich of Firebaugh; and 29 nieces and nephews.
She also leaves a beloved expanse of extended family, in-laws, “goddesses” and other lifelong friends; loving caregivers at the Luther Park facility; a devoted Australian shepherd, Eddie; and a troupe of farm cats whose quantity is unknown.
Betsy was preceded in death by her parents, Milton and Ella Mae Diedrich, and her brother Jim Diedrich.
A private graveside service and burial was held last week at Pack River Cemetery. Due to Covid-19, it’s not currently possible to have the raucous standing-room-only celebration that Betsy’s footloose life warrants. Details will emerge of an eventual plan for her family and friends to honor her life properly.
Her family requests that any remembrances be made to the scholarship funds of either the Community Assistance League or the Panhandle Alliance for Education. Tributes can be left at lakeviewfuneral.com.