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Betty Jamieson

Educator, musician, woman of faith

Betty L. Jamieson, a resident of Pilgrim Place since 2002, died February 18, 2017 at its Health Services Center, surrounded by family and friends. She passed a week after respiratory issues became acute, and after several years of declining strength.

She was born in 1930 in Lynn, Indiana to Beatrice Carrie Heath Brant and William Ernest Brant, the first of their two children. Both parents were public schoolteachers. The family soon moved to northwestern Indiana where Betty grew up in Brook and Remington. All her life she remembered and benefitted from the unusually fine musical education she received there. She played the clarinet, piano and organ, and served as substitute organist at the Methodist Church during her high school and college years.

She attended Purdue University, her parents’ alma mater, and graduated with a degree in psychology, which she studied further at Kent State University in Ohio where she received a master’s degree. In 1955 she began three years’ service for the board of education of the Michigan Conference of the Methodist Church as their first lay worker. In this capacity she traveled 50,000 miles a year across the western half of lower Michigan, visiting congregations to strengthen their ministries with children and youth.

In 1958 she and Pastor David J. Jamieson were married and she moved to Galesburg, Michigan, where he was pastor of the First Congregational Church. Mrs. Jamieson worked with the youth group, consulted with the church school leadership and sang in the choir. In 1959 twin sons David Kirk and Bruce William were born. In 1960 the family moved to Goshen, Indiana, where Pastor Jamieson served Plymouth United Church of Christ and Betty offered similar volunteer services. She completed teaching credentials at Goshen College and was active in the American Association of University Women. She also instituted an afterschool program for children to learn French. Daughter Sarah Christine was born in 1962. 

In 1968 the family moved to LaGrange, Illinois, where David was based while serving the national setting of the United Church of Christ in a position that required much travel. Mrs. Jamieson volunteered in a program that sent workers into the homes of families living in the shadows of the steel mills in south Chicago. They taught new parents the importance of giving intensive personal attention to their infants and young children, talking and reading to them from their earliest days, parental behaviors not a part of the culture of most of these families. She did psychological testing with the children and was able to demonstrate to the parents the value of the interactions—all this decades before early childhood education became a widespread commitment in the educational community.

In 1972 the family moved to Lincoln, Nebraska when David was called to become the Conference Minister for the United Church of Christ. Mrs. Jamieson began volunteering in the church school at First Plymouth Church but was soon tapped to join the staff as Christian education associate, a position in which she directed the education program for 10 years. She worked intensively with teachers, parents and children, meeting individual needs and structuring the whole operation as a quality opportunity for young families.

First Plymouth grew during those 10 years to become one of the largest congregations in the United Church of Christ, with strong educational offerings joining vital worship and music. Mrs. Jamieson also continued her association with the AAUW. She was one of several younger women who formed a support group to meet needs not provided for by the traditional women’s offerings of the church.  In her role as the “first lady” of the Conference, she supported pastors’ wives in facing some of the challenges of that position. 

Betty served multiple terms on the board of directors of the United Church Board for World Ministries, where new members, particularly young people whom the board was adding in that period, appreciated the warmth of her welcome and her guidance in their early days.

In 1985, when Pastor Jamieson accepted the position as Conference Minister of the Northern California Conference, he and Betty moved to San Francisco as empty nesters.  Mrs. Jamieson continued her “first lady” role. In addition, the office manager invited her to fill a position in the support staff of the Conference office occasioned by a sudden resignation, “just for a few months.” She ended up serving almost 10 years as receptionist—a position for which she was uniquely qualified through her deep knowledge of the United Church of Christ. Pastors and lay leaders, phoning or dropping in to the office, repeatedly expressed appreciation not only for the knowledgeable and effective way in which she helped them meet their needs but for the warmth of her welcome.

With no children left at home, the Jamiesons spent much of their free time immersing themselves in the cultural life and natural beauty of the San Francisco area. That increased when they both retired in 1994, although a significant amount of retirement time was devoted to visiting granddaughters who came on the scene in exactly the same year. 

In 2002 the Jamiesons moved to a new home just constructed at Pilgrim Place.  Betty looked forward to doing different things than those that had claimed her attention earlier in life.  She joined the Library Committee, worked in coins at the Festival and played in the recorder group. She read voraciously—mainly “well written mysteries.” She and David attended concerts at Disney Hall and enjoyed the musical offerings at Pilgrim Place, the Pasadena Playhouse and other area stages, and visited the many art museums within easy reach.  Gradually getting around became more difficult because of the erosion of cartilage in her knees, and a stroke in 2010 further limited her. However, she continued attending the Claremont United Church of Christ until a few months before her death, and the Eucharistic Circle at Pilgrim Place until two weeks before her death.

Betty was preceded in death by her brother William Warren Brant of Ogden, Utah in 2003, and her son Bruce in 2009. She is survived by her husband David; her son Kirk and his wife Kimberlee Micek Jamieson of Milton, Georgia; her daughter Sarah and her husband Kenneth Shrum of Fort Collins, Colorado; and her four granddaughters, Emma Shrum, a social worker with at-risk high school students in Minneapolis, Grace Jamieson, a high school English teacher in Framingham, Massachusetts, Clare Jamieson, now a student at Columbia University, and Anne Shrum, now a student at Occidental College. 

A memorial service will be held at Decker Hall in Pilgrim Place on Saturday, April 15 at 3:30 p.m., with a reception following in the Napier Center. Memorial contributions may be made to the Residents Health and Support Program at Pilgrim Place, 625 Mayflower Rd., Claremont CA 91711.