Elizabeth Germaine Fellner Hughes December 18, 1923 - April 22, 2018
Betty Hughes was born in Berlin, Wisconsin. Her father, Fred Fellner, was a successful insurance. He married his first wife Maud in 1909, and they had seven children, including stillborn twin girls. Maud died of childbirth-related complications in 1917. Fred marred Betty’s mother Christine in 1919, and Fred and Christine had four more children. Betty had five older and two younger siblings, born between 1910 and 1932. Today older sister Jane (1920) and younger sister Sue (1932) survive. The family moved to Antigo, Wisconsin when Betty was 5, and lived in a big house on route 47 southwest of town the rest of Betty’s time at home. Fred, Maud, and Christine had family roots in Austria.
Betty graduated from Antigo High School in 1941, and during World War II she worked in Manitowoc supporting the war effort. She met a soldier during the war, and their daughter Margaret was born in 1944. The soldier died in the war, and Maggie was adopted by a loving family in 1946. Betty moved to Florida after the war and deliberately stayed out of Maggie’s life to avoid interfering. Maggie eventually tracked Betty down for a happy reunion in 1975 and is a part of the Hughes family too.
Betty met E. Miller Hughes in Miami after the war, and they married and got a job that sounds more like a vacation while both decompressed from the war. Miller, born in 1906, had been an expert machinist in the Washington Navy Yard before the war, and during the war had served in clandestine missions that he never talked about. In the late 1940s, Miller and Betty were caretakers for a rich man’s private island estate off Miami, keeping up the house and docks, fishing and swimming every day, hosting parties, and having a blast. Eventually that all came to an end with the arrival of children. Miller and Betty moved to Orlando, where Miller worked as a cabinet maker and ran the millwork shop at a large lumberyard. They raised sons Jeff, Earl, Richard, and Gilbert in Orlando, living in the same house for over 35 years. Betty was a housewife, working at home babysitting, ironing, sewing for others, and taking care of four boys. She got a full-time job, too- she handled all the merchandise returns processing for the J.C. Penney store in downtown Orlando for many years, eventually retiring from Penney’s. Betty and Miller were members of Orlando’s First Christian Church, and supported outreach, charity events, church camp, Sunday School, and the various ministries. Miller built the pulpit and altar in the sanctuary.
In the early 1960s Betty fell ill with pneumonia, and then suffered a severe allergic reaction to penicillin, a standard treatment of the day. Her kidneys shut down, and she became one of the earliest patients saved by the new artificial kidney machine.
Betty learned to drive in 1975, finally forced into it by Miller’s health. Kathy (Earl’s wife) taught her while Betty and Miller were staying with Earl and Kathy in Louisville taking care of things for Miller’s recently widowed sister just across the river in southern Indiana. Betty kept at it after that, driving friends to medical appointments and generally getting people where they needed to be.
When Miller died in 1985 after complications from esophageal cancer, Betty lived on in the old house for a while, then moved to a Christian retirement community in Tavares, about 36 miles northwest of Orlando. She was a pillar of the community, supporting others and her church. She beat uterine cancer in 2009 and kept helping others. In 2012, she voluntarily gave up driving on her 89th birthday. By late 2013, she was in a rehabilitation center recovering from a fall, and in May 2014 she moved in with Kathy and Earl in Alexandria, Virginia when it was clear she couldn’t go on living by herself. She enjoyed the company of the Hughes family Pomeranians (especially best buddy Spunky, who was about her age in dog years) and the Saint Mark’s Episcopal (Kathy and Earl’s church) extended family; and she loved to sit on the patio in the sun, but the Virginia winters reminded her why she moved from Wisconsin to Florida nearly 70 years before. Betty enjoyed pretty good health during her stay in Alexandria, but in January 2018 and again in March, she suffered internal bleeding and red blood cell crashes, eventually leading to her death. She died peacefully on April 22, Earth Day.