JUNO BEACH, Fla. — Helen "Betsy" Kneen was born in 1915 in Ashtabula, Ohio, to Helen Dunbar and Bill Hewins and was a sister to two brothers, Mike and Billy.
She graduated from Ashtabula High School, where she met her future husband, John Kneen, her "first and only" love. After a brief time living in Cleveland when John worked for IBM, the young family returned to Ashtabula where they raised their three children, Nick, Judy and Jeff. Betsy was active in the Garden Club and a founder of the Fortnightly Club, as well as secretary and treasurer for the Old Folks County Home.
Her desire to become a working professional manifested later in life when she and John moved to Florida and Betsy began working at Lake Worth Travel. Over the years, she purchased the agency and built it into a successful business. John came to work with her and the two of them traveled all over the world. They went to China as the first travel agents permitted into the country and flew on the inaugural flight of the Concord to London. When John died at age 59, Betsy worked all the harder, becoming the successful business woman she had envisioned.
When Betsy was 78, she moved into Waterford, a retirement community in Juno Beach, Fla. She became Resident Treasurer her first year and was the initiator of the first cocktail bar/clubroom where residents could meet before dinner and enjoy each other's company. This was surely a carry over of a lifetime of enjoyment of cocktail hours begun back in Ashtabula with Betsy and John's dearest friends - Per and Dick Goldsmith, Jean and Larry Hill and Rub Robishaw.
Betsy was beloved by many including her "adopted" daughter, Julia Gregory; and her daughter in love, Vicki Kneen, wife of Jeff. Betsy was given the nickname of "Awesome Betsy" by friends of her daughter, Judith, and "Tootsie" by Lee, husband of Betsy's granddaughter, Nicole. The caregivers at Waterford, in her last years, cared deeply for her as she was sweet natured and smiling to the end. Her death occurred in the afternoon of September 13th with her son, Jeff, by her side.
Betsy is survived by her daughter, Judith of Boston; and her son, Jeffrey of West Palm Beach; and grandchildren, Greg, Nicole, David and Beth; and eight great-grandchildren. Her son, Nick, passed away in January of this year.
She had a long life and will be missed by many. A Celebration of Her Life Gathering, with family and friends will be held in Ashtabula next summer.
Obituary and condolences at starbeacon.com.