Obituary for Elizabeth Brigham Barrett
Norwich, CT---Elizabeth Ellen (Brigham) Barrett, a remarkable woman of our nation's Greatest Generation, the mother of sixteen children, and a beautiful servant of God, died peacefully, as she lived, on September 14, 2017.
Elizabeth, who was known as "Betty," was among the legions of American women who effectively served as stateside soldiers during WWII. A 1943 Middlebury College graduate with a degree in sociology, Betty became a communications dispatcher at the Burlington Vermont National Airport in her hometown. She both received and dispatched aircraft in the important New York to Montreal hub during the war, a non-traditional job for women because, a she put it, the "boys" were all away fighting overseas. She instilled in her children and grandchildren a deep understanding of the value of education for women and continually reinforced the idea that girls could do anything boys could do.
While raising her family, Betty was a pioneering advocate for those who struggle with mental wellness, especially in combatting the stigma too often associated with the disease. In 1976, she helped establish, with the visionary leadership of Norwich’s John Morosky and James Cronin, the Leisure Drop-in Center as the area’s first and only center for mental health respite and services. In 1978, with enough fundraising in place and Betty’s ongoing involvement, the drop-in center was established as The Reliance House. Its progeny, Reliance Health, is today widely regarded as among Connecticut’s most respected behavioral health agencies. Betty was very much a foundational rock in the civic contributions and various enterprises of her late husband, Frederick C. Barrett, MD, especially in the 1959 development of the then-modern state of the art Summit Convalescent Home in Jewett City. For many years, Betty worked alongside her husband in his general medical practice office. Betty enjoyed longstanding membership in Norwich’s historic Fortnightly Study Club. She was a member of the New London County Medical Auxiliary, serving as its president, was a United Community Services board member and participated in various other civic organizations. Betty enjoyed playing bridge, swimming, and golf. In her later years, Betty's mind often turned to golden memories of Burlington, and the beautiful landscape of the Northern Vermont of her childhood, and of her parent’s English ancestors, who were among the first immigrant settlers of Burlington, VT. She was especially proud of her father, Clark Brigham, the decades-long President of Burlington's Merchants National Bank, and his commitment to social and civic causes, and he was equally proud of her. When Betty was selected the 1939 Burlington High School Citizen of the Year by the Daughters of the American Revolution local chapter, her father displayed Betty’s award medallion on a gold chain attached to his pocket watch. Betty often remembered her Middlebury College years, and her proud association with the TriDelta Sorority. She recounted a summer working at the former Inn at the Summit of Mount Mansfield, hiking the "Camel's Hump,” and of her time in the renowned Middlebury College "Chateau" residence and dining hall, where only French speaking was allowed. She was particularly fond of her iconic uncle Wallace Coburn, a WWI veteran and a nine-term Vermont state legislator from Belvidere, and her Aunt Della Calvert, a schoolteacher and
A 1974 New London Day feature about Betty told, among other things, of a young medical intern, newly married in 1946, who was about to become a family physician, aspiring someday to set up a medical practice in New London County with his bride Elizabeth “Betty” Brigham---and beginning a "family practice" of a type that few have undertaken. There were 16 Barrett children born in the years that followed and 12 survive Betty: Barbara Bloom of Shelburne, VT; Lawrence William of Norwich; Robert Michael (Betty Lou) of Wichita, KS; Frederick C. Jr. (Kathleen) of New London; Kathleen (Dennis) Wehmeyer of Midland, TX; Lois (Robert) Huntington of New London; Stephen Clark (Betsy) of Lisbon; Christopher Calvert of Norwich; Matthew Vincent (Elizabeth Hamilton) of Old Lyme; Elizabeth (John) Bracchitta of Nashua, NH; Theresa (Steven) Levy of Wellesley, MA; and Jane (Ron) Peterson of Boise, ID; and beloved sisters Lois Selnau of Farmington and Nancy Eldridge of Phoenix, AZ. Betty leaves 28 adoring grandchildren and nine great grandchildren. In addition to her husband, four children predeceased Betty: Edmund James; Anne M. Rapalje (Dan); Thomas Edson, and Timothy John; her parents, Clark and Ethel Brigham and brothers, Richard and Lyman Brigham, and grand-daughter, Hope Irene Bracchitta.
Calling Hours are from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 at the Cummings-Gagne Funeral Home, 82 Cliff Street, Norwich (www.cummingsgagnefh.com). Services will be held at 10:00 AM on Thursday, September 21, 2017 at the Park Congregational Church, 283 Broadway, Norwich.