Betty Selman (Kragiel) passed peacefully at 6:20 a.m. August 6, 2021 in Elliot Lake, Ontario at age 88. It was one of the few things in her life that she did quietly.
Emigrating from England to undeveloped northern Ontario in 1956, with husband Bazyli and young daughter Lorraine, was the first of many challenges that Betty would attack fearlessly with her characteristic spunk and indomitable spirit. Growing up in Rotherham, England during the Second World War, and being the second youngest of 8 children had shaped this petite spitfire.
Betty and Bazyli raised their three daughters and adopted son Maurice in Elliot Lake, Bazyli working at the mine and Betty at the hospital as a pediatric nurse. When they weren’t working, they enjoyed camping on Dunlop Lake, dances at the Legion, and socializing with their large circle of friends, many of whom had also emigrated to Canada from Europe.
A 5’2” buxom redhead in her day, Betty was the life of the party, and not just at parties. Never deterred by convention, the friends, family, and coworkers that survive her have many a tale to tell of her entertaining antics and unbridled approach to life.
After twenty-some years of marriage, Betty took another huge step, relocating to southern Ontario with her three youngest children, now as a single mother. Two friends from Elliot lake, extended family known affectionately to Betty’s kids as “ big Auntie Joan” and “little Auntie Joan”, had moved there before her, and were there to reciprocate the kindness and support she had given them in times gone by. The three friends were inseparable, nursing together at Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, and helping to raise each other’s children.
While working at KW Hospital, Betty transitioned from pediatrics to geriatrics, which would become her passion for the remainder of her life. Betty didn’t just care for the elderly, she genuinely loved them, and loved to make them laugh. Their wrinkled little faces would light up when Betty returned to work after a few well-deserved days off, and her first task at hand was always to make sure that all of the ladies had lipstick on and a colourful bow in their hair.
After Betty’s kids had grown, her next big move was to Chatsworth to try her hand at, of all things, farming! Still nursing, now at Chatsworth nursing home, she would work tirelessly, caring for her beloved elderly patients, and then come home to pluck chickens, feed the cows, and work her magic in the vegetable garden.
After her farming adventure, now In her 50’s, Betty’s next chapter, and perhaps the most audacious of all, was to remarry and renovate a century home in Wiarton where she launched her very own Wiarton Retirement Home. She was steadfast, worked round the clock and cared for every one of her patients as if they were her own family.
In the early 90’s, now in retirement, Betty announced she was returning to England to be with her remaining siblings. She packed up and moved back to her homeland, settled a stone’s throw from where she was born, made new friends, tended to her garden, took in stray you-name-its, and of course, stirred up the occasional controversy as she was wont to do.
Betty’s family assumed that she would spend her remaining years there, to be buried alongside her beloved Stephen, her firstborn that had tragically died of crib death at a few months old. But that was not to be. When years had passed, as had her siblings, Betty once again shocked everyone when she announced she was moving to Spain. Spain! “For heaven’s sake Mom, could you make it harder for us to get to you?!”, her kids lamented. But they soon adapted and got accustomed to, and enjoyed, their annual trips to visit Mom in sunny Spain.
Betty’s fun in the sun came to an end when, inevitably, her health began to fail. Her repatriation to Canada was befitting and entailed a dramatic rescue operation staged by daughter Christine and husband George, consulates and emergency passports. Once back on Canadian soil, Christine and George handed their frail charge over to daughter Rose-Marie who facilitated the final leg of Betty’s journey back to Elliot Lake, some 40 years after her defiant departure. She spent her final years under the loving care of daughter Lorraine, and the staff at St. Joseph’s Manor, a few steps away from the hospital where she had brought 2 daughters into the world and launched her lifelong and passionate career in nursing.
Betty is survived by daughters Lorraine (and Bill) Gareau, Christine (and George) Murphy, Rose-Marie (and Martin) Geleynse, grand children Pam and Ryan Gareau, Charles, Caitlin and Liam Murphy, Alex Kragiel and Brent Greig, great grand children Keane, Kyla and Shaelyn Gareau, and is predeceased by son Maurice Kragiel, and former but fondly remembered husband Bazyli Kragiel.
Rest in peace Mom, you’ve earned it.
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