Betty Jane Sterly McFerran, 1926-2022
A second-generation American, Betty Jane Sterly was born in Chicago on Oct. 6, 1926, to Adolph and Ruth Prakel Sterly; Betty entered the joy of heaven on Nov. 6, 2022, while still living independently at Meadowbrook Village Christian Retirement Community in Escondido, CA.
Her Lutheran identity (“by grace you have been saved”) that shaped Betty’s life began with her baptism at Timothy Evangelical Lutheran Church and School in Chicago, where she attended school K-8, and where she was confirmed at age 13 in the Christian faith by her beloved Pastor Thieme.
Betty was a faithful, life-long friend to many, including her Calumet High School (Chicago; class of 1944) classmates. One of her high school friends was a handsome, hard-working young man named Bob McFerran—one of the very few students there who had worked and saved enough to buy his own car already. Betty admired that he was so industrious, but they never dated while in high school.
After high school Betty trained as a Registered Nurse at Wesley Memorial Hospital (affiliated with Northwestern University), preparing to help with the war effort, but World War II ended in 1945. Soon after, Army Air Corps veteran Bob McFerran returned home to Chicago. Soon enough, he and his high school classmate Betty reconnected, and they were married at Timothy Lutheran Church on June 28, 1947 . . . the beginning of a Christ-centered, loving, and fruitful relationship that lasted until Bob’s passing in 2014.
Speaking of fruitful: modeling the unspoken family motto of “Be fruitful and multiply,” (Gen. 1:28) Betty and Bob had eight children (she is survived by seven), who went on to produce 23 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
Raising seven children during the 1960s in Orange, CA, allowed Betty to express her love of beauty, order, and thrift in many ways as she wholeheartedly embraced her vocation of homemaker. Betty took good care of her family, allowing her husband “Dr. Bob” to focus on his family medical practice while she stretched the grocery budget to concoct delicious casserole dinners for her family of nine; baked all kinds of breads and desserts (especially Christmas cookies!); cultivated flowers and fruit trees in her large yard; sewed stylish clothes for herself and her children; restored old furniture; worked with stained glass; knitted sweaters, vests, hats and afghans; sewed curtains, pillows, slipcovers, bedcovers—you name it, Betty could sew it or wallpaper it or paint it or decoupage it. Or clean it (cleanliness being very close to godliness in Betty’s organized world).
Betty and Bob were always active at church, especially leading and attending Bible studies—at St. John’s Lutheran in Orange, CA, for 28 years, and as founding members of Community Lutheran Church in Escondido since 1988.
One special ministry Betty had at Community Lutheran for many years was knitting a sweater and hat for each new baby that was baptized there.
Another volunteer activity that allowed Betty to use both her Registered Nurse experience as well as her many years of taking care of her own babies was her ten years of helping with the premature babies at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UC San Diego Medical Center. Betty also enjoyed being a member of the Dos Valles Garden Club; she and Bob lived in Valley Center for 25 years, where Betty created a garden paradise in spite of the rocky soil surrounding their dream home (that Betty helped design) on a hill overlooking their beloved Valley. Well into her 70s, Betty was legendary for the long hours she could spend wielding a gas-powered weed whacker or Betty-powered rake—again, working hard to create order and beauty in and around her home.
During their 67 years of marriage, Betty and Bob were pretty much inseparable, with a shared love for many activities that included walking (often to Papa Bear’s restaurant for breakfast), playing cards, traveling, golfing (often with grandkids), watching grandkids play sports, hosting frequent family parties, hosting their beloved Life Light home Bible study group, and praying for their children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren.
Being outdoors was another shared passion of Betty and Bob’s; they introduced their seven children to the wonders of God’s creation during many car camping and backpacking adventures throughout the West in the 1960s and early 70s . . . for which Betty created/planned/organized much of the gear and all the meals. This was another opportunity for Betty to put her thrifty, creative, and well-organized mind to work. (There were no “one-stop-shop” outdoor gear stores in Orange County back then.)
Because Betty was a child of the Great Depression, she was an early adapter of thrifty (and earth-friendly) activities such as composting kitchen waste, recycling and re-using containers, mulching her plants to conserve water, and collecting rain water for her garden; to Betty, these were just common sense things that non-wasteful people did.
In their mid-80s, Betty and Bob reluctantly left their ten-acre, hilltop paradise in Valley Center and moved “to town”; they felt blessed that God led them to Meadowbrook Village in Escondido. After her beloved husband passed in 2014, Betty continued to live independently in their home at Meadowbrook, where she became famous for her commitment to the community jig-saw puzzles as well as for her skill (and luck) at card games such as Hand and Foot.
Betty’s ever-expanding circle of family and friends were all blessed by her faithful remembering—with lovely greeting cards containing hand-written notes—of all birthdays, anniversaries, and major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, and—Betty’s favorite—Easter.
In the last few years it was not easy for Betty to come to terms with her declining physical abilities, but once she had (reluctantly) accepted the fact that she needed a rolling walker to stay safe on her daily strolls through the neighborhood, she proudly embraced her new role as a “mobility advocate” and did her best to reduce “walker stigma” and encourage her Meadowbrook neighbors and friends to keep moving.
Two organizations made it possible for Betty to remain in her familiar, beloved home until her last breath, and the family would like to thank all the kind and skilled caregiving and nursing staff at both Hospice of the North Coast as well as Meadowbrook Village for the love and compassion shown to Betty during her last months.
A memorial service to reassure us of our hope of eternal life because of Jesus—and to praise God for his loving work in and through Betty’s life of love and service to her family and so many others—will take place at 2 pm on Saturday, Dec. 3, at Community Lutheran Church, 3575 E. Valley Parkway, Escondido, 92027. (The family has designated Community Lutheran for memorial contributions.)
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Community Lutheran Church of Escondido.
Community Lutheran Church
3575 E Valley Parkway, Escondido CA 92027