Grandmother, homemaker, devout Catholic
Betty Jane Rensch died quietly in her sleep on May 6. She was 90 years old.
Born Elizabeth Jane Dooley on June 10, 1927 in Ramona, South Dakota, she was the youngest of Patrick and Bertie Dooley’s five children and was the valedictorian at her high school graduation in 1945.
Her hometown was a small farming community about an hour’s drive from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Mrs. Rensch’s father was a farm veterinarian. For the later part of his life, he was noted for a mark on his forehead left by a disgruntled patient, a donkey, who had kicked him in the head. Fortunately the doctor survived to tell the tale.
Mrs. Rensch delighted in sharing stories of farm life with her family. Her father was one of the few people in his town to own a car, which he used to travel to the various farms in the area. She recalled driving with her friends to the nearby city of Madison when all of the sudden there was a loud “kah-clunk,” she would explain to family. One of the wheels had fallen off and rolled off the road, down a snow-dusted ditch and into a field. The girls ran after the tire, but then realized they didn’t know how to fix the problem. They walked home that day.
As an independent young lady, Mrs. Rensch worked at the local grocery store, unafraid to get her hands dirty and even worked at the meat counter.
On February 17, 1949, she married her high school sweetheart, Conrad Joseph Rensch, at St. Williams Catholic Church in Ramona. Conrad was a tall, dark and handsome veteran, having served in the Marines in World War II, and she was a tiny redhead with glasses framing kind blue eyes, her family noted.
Despite her petite appearance, she not only could drive a car, she could design and sew her own clothes, pickle and jar just about anything, bake her own bread and face nearly any challenge a farmer’s wife would have to tackle. For seven years she tended to her country home and cooked meals for her husband and the other threshers.
Her husband later worked as a grain elevator manager and Mrs. Rensch worked at a grocery store in Oldham, South Dakota. After having their two children, John and Lori, Mr. and Mrs. Rensch decided in 1968 to look for better prospects for work in California. Without a home or work waiting for them, the two found employment and a house in Duarte, nearly as soon as they arrived.
Mrs. Rensch began working for Unitek as a computer operator in Monrovia, retiring in 1987 when she became a grandmother. Mrs. Rensch and her husband retired in their beloved home in Duarte, adding an extension to their house and customizations such as an innovative home intercom, a hand-built bench swing, a handcrafted fireplace and a vegetable garden.
More than anything, Mrs. Rensch loved spending time with family and providing them home-cooked meals. For the Fourth of July, Mr. and Mrs. Rensch hosted an annual barbeque at their Duarte home where fireworks are legal. As dusk approached, family, friends and neighbors would gather around the cul-de-sac street to contribute fireworks to the show.
Mr. and Mrs. Rensch also enjoyed giving hand-made gifts. Mrs. Rensch painted or stain-finished her husband’s woodwork projects. Together, they made bedside tables, yellow school bus toy boxes, wooden toy cars and more for their three grandchildren. They even made a grandfather clock for their home.
Mrs. Rensch would also crochet, paint ceramics with her daughter and could bake just about anything, cinnamon rolls being her son’s favorite. The fondest memories shared by Mrs. Rensch’s grandchildren are baking cookies at Christmas time.
Mrs. Rensch’s final year was filled with love, spent among family and friends. In 2017, she celebrated her 90th birthday, saw each of her granddaughters get married and made many new friends after recently moving into a retirement home in San Dimas.
Mrs. Rensch is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, John and Vicki Rensch; daughter and son-in-law, Lori and Eric Hanson; and grandchildren, Jenelle Rensch and Ashley and Ryan Hanson.
Services were held at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Monrovia where she was a longtime parishioner. She was buried beside her husband at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Rowland Heights.