Betty M. Nash was born in Friday Harbor, Washington, to William Chevalier of Spieden Island and Elizabeth Graignic of Waldron Island. She already had a beautiful sister Marjorie and would later have a handsome brother Billy. Being from a family of fishers, seaman and farmers, her early years were spent island hopping. They had homes on several of the outer San Juan Islands, but Waldron Island is where Betty’s immediate family would call home.
She attended her elementary school years at Stuart and Waldron Islands. From John’s Island they rowed across the narrow, gushing John’s Pass to Stuart and then either hiked six miles to school or rowed further into Reid Harbor for a shorter walk but a longer row, either way was tiring. Betty told stories of this epic trek throughout her life. She recalled riding a cow back to the boat and nearly falling off as the warmth and rhythm of the ride lulled her to sleep.
Betty’s stories of her early years were deep in the ways of living off the land; digging clams; reef netting; picking berries and seaweed, bottle-feeding bummer lambs; wrestling a wild calf and dislocating a finger and visiting her dad on the boats he skippered. Holidays were spent on Spieden, sliding down the steep slopes in the snow, lighting real candles on the Christmas tree, and cooking oysters in a can over a fire for her grandpa, she marveled that he ate every single one. She learned skills beyond her age and grade due to the one-room school setting, and one year she was the only student. Family and friends gathered for summer picnics with heaps of homegrown food, salmon and blackberry cobbler. She also relished her long days alone on the beach with her vibrant imagination.
Betty attended one year of high school on Orcas and was so lonesome for her parents, they moved to Friday Harbor where she attended school and graduated in 1943. She was a yell leader, a pie eating contest winner, a reputable student and reliable friend. She then went on to nurses training in Bellingham at St. Joseph’s Hospital with a group of friends and received her nursing degree. Word was that the house she lived in after graduation was affectionately dubbed “Heaven” by many a suiting young man.
Betty met Charlie Nash one evening after he came home from WWII at a party in his parent’s home overlooking the pretty little bay of Friday Harbor. She recalled, with blushing cheeks, that he rolled up the Persian rug and danced a little jig to the tune of “Put Your Little Foot Right There.” The rest is history. They married in 1948 and started their family with Nick, Kelly, Pat and Lisa, and Betty would spend the rest of her days in the home they built overlooking Friday Harbor. Being a wife, mother and grandmother were the highlights of her life. In the true spirit of island life, she spent long days with her kids at the beach with hordes of cousins and friends, or up to Waldron for weeks at a time to her parents while Charlie fished in Bristol Bay, Alaska. She excelled at the arts, not what we call fine arts but the best kind of art – life – costume making, parties, birthdays, crafts, cooking, holidays and conversation. Mom had lots of friends and some of her dearests were her sisters in law, Priscilla, Fran, Judy and Catherine. Her dearest of all was likely her sister Marge Guard Workman.
Betty was a registered nurse and had the honor of serving the San Juan Island community for many years with Dr. Malcolm Heath, and others. She helped deliver countless island babies, spent many days and nights caring for the sick or injured, and even those with emotional troubles. Her children were often unaware of her late-night job due to her fail-safe, cheery disposition regardless of how tired she was. Later in life, she would be brought to tears recalling some of the toughest moments as a nurse, and her family’s reverence for her humility and unpretentious nature deepened. She was a charter member of the Medical Guild and parishioner of the St. Francis Catholic Church, and member of the historical museum, yacht club, and Legion Auxiliary to name a few.
Boats, fish and fishermen were significant in Betty’s life and would be the thread that gathered and kept her family strong and connected until this day. She and Charlie would end their careers gillnetting together on the Salmon Banks of the Salish Sea for the Swinomish Tribe, one of her connections to her Native ancestry that she would ultimately come to honor and take heartfelt pride in. Betty and Charlie delivered salmon well into their 70s. She was often the driving force to get out there during an opening, bargaining with her captain Charlie “just one more set.” Trouble was, they were too good at it, and one of us would end up picking their fish for them, as they were too tired to do it themselves.
Our mom was the center of the universe, meaning the family table – as metaphor and meal, where we often communed at her invitation. We relaxed, laughed and ate, and ate, and ate some more. She loved giving in every way she knew how. Christmas was her favorite, and then Thanksgiving, and birthdays- you name it she made a party of it and the more of everything the merrier! As the grandchildren increased in number her love magnified by masses. Each baby was held in her generous, strong hands like the precious gift they were.
Betty is preceded in death by her husband Charles H. Nash, her son Kelly and grandson Troy. She is survived by her son Nick Nash and wife Linnae; son Pat Nash and wife Becky; and daughter Lisa Lawrence and husband Jim. Grandchildren: Natalia, Mara, Michelle, Kiersten, Jordan, Charles, Margaret, Kyle, and Jasen, and 13 great-grandchildren.
Funeral Mass for Betty Nash took place at St. Francis Catholic Church at Noon on Saturday, March 3, 2018, followed by Interment at St. Francis Catholic Cemetery. Arrangements are in the care of Evans Funeral Chapel and Onsite Crematory Inc. of Anacortes and San Juan Islands.
To share a memory of Betty, please sign the online guest register at www.evanschapel.com.