Betty Fowler July 2008 / A value added life
It was my first Quaker funeral and in keeping with Betty Fowler's request there was to be thirty minutes silence...As we sat in a circle around Betty's photograph in the Quaker Hall at Mt Victoria, the place of Betty's spiritual home, my mind went back to when I had my first exchange with Betty. It was not long after getting elected to Wellington City Council in 1996.
Betty was born on May 14 1918 at the close of the WW1. That meant she had personal experience of the difficult years after the first World War, the years that led up to the Great Depression of the 1920's -30's that catalysed WW2, and the rise of fascism, the answer to the economic collapse of the capitalists' order.
My first encounter with Betty came by a chance meeting while out for a walk. I was confronted with a small elderly woman with bright eyes. She knew who I was and had spent time thinking about my job as an elected person in the Capital. I quickly worked out that I was talking to a political ally. Betty had an excellent grasp of the local politics. Over the next 12 years I was to learn more about this unusual woman who was in her late 70's when we first met. She was fond of walking and a regular user of public transport. Betty didn't like vehicles being parked on the footpaths..
Amongst her achievements in her long life was the raising of a family of four boys and she often talked about her grandchildren with pride. You would think for a woman of her generation, that being a home maker would have been a dominant part of her life but Betty had a much bigger view of the world. As a young woman she had been exposed to the thinking of Karl Marx and the work of other groups and political parties that promoted the idea of land reform, which has been heavily influenced by the American economist Henry George and others. Betty read widely and could converse over a wide range of subjects from theology and philosophy to politics. She could talk about the austerity of the depression and the difficult years just after the second world war in the United Kingdom. That lead to a flirtation with communism and a life long interest in the socialist perspective. However Betty's philosophical underpinnings were her strong commitment to the Christian faith and the Quakers . In 1967 Betty( a trained nurse) and her husband Gerald emigrated to New Zealand from England where Gerald was to work at Wallaceville as a laboratory technician. Betty worked and raised her family and wrestled with the conflicts of mother, wife and part bread winner.
Amongst the list of civic activities and groups Betty was involved with were the Anti Nuclear Campaign, and the Stopping The 1981 Springbock Tour. She was also a member of the Aotearoa Peace Movement and opposed the Vietnam war. Betty was also a volunteer coordinator at Mary Potter Hospice. Betty supported Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation and the Down Town Ministry, to name a few, and supported many others.
Betty died on August 1 2008 and and is survived by her four sons David, Christopher, Francis and Simon and six grandchildren. Betty will be fondly remembered by many, particularly myself as she nominated me twice for Council and has a special place in my heart. Betty was a strong woman who added value to the world as she found it.