Elizabeth (Betty) Ann Williams McGowan, of West Harwich and formerly of Braintree, died at her home Jan. 7, just shy of her 94th birthday. She was the beloved wife of the late Frank M. McGowan Jr., and the daughter of Archibald J. and Geneva Litchfield Williams of Brockton.
Betty was born in Brockton on Jan. 13, 1928. Contrary to popular folklore, for her family and friends, Friday the 13th has always been considered a very lucky day! She graduated from Brockton High School in 1945 and went on to Lasell Junior College, where she spent “two of the most enjoyable years” of her life. After graduating from Lasell, she attended Boston University, became a member of the Alpha Phi sorority and graduated in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She was the first person in her family to receive a college education. While at Lasell, she met her future husband, an MIT student, and they were married in October 1949.
Betty is survived by her three children: Mark McGowan and wife Heather of West Harwich, Robin McGowan of South Harwich, and Sheryl Harrow and husband Ed of Hopkinton, as well as three grandchildren who loved her as “Nana”: Alexis and Brittany McGowan, and Amanda Harrow. She leaves her nieces, Jill Marcotte and husband Greg, and Susan Thibeault, and their children and grandchildren, as well as her dear friend, Marilyn Walter. She is predeceased by her brother, Bill Williams and wife Frances, niece Paula Settino and husband Mike, and Ernie Thibeault.
Daughter, sister, wife, mom, mother-in-law, nana and friend, Betty dedicated her time to caring for others. A quiet woman, she was small in stature but huge in heart, and abhorrent of any attention focused on her. She was always interested in what someone else was doing and how she could support them. Like many, she faced numerous challenges through her years, including growing old, and she met them with her inner strength. She was the heart of the family, keeping everyone connected and welcoming friends and foster children. She adored her grandchildren, delighting in their successes, supporting them in difficult times, and “appropriately spoiling them.” She was “the best mother-in-law.”
Throughout her life she volunteered in numerous organizations in various capacities. She believed deeply in the transformative power of education and volunteering in the schools. As a member of the Harwich Women’s Club she served on the Scholarship Committee. For several summers she helped at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center doling out information on the best places to visit to fully capture the Cape Cod experience, and at Thanksgiving she served dinners at Brax. Whether she was delivering a bowl of fruit or flowers from her garden, driving someone for their cancer care, or sitting and listening, Betty was happiest when she was helping others.
She had numerous interests that ebbed and flowed as she aged. A voracious reader of nonfiction, she was a member of two book clubs. In her younger years with her husband and friends, she enjoyed playing bridge and tennis, dancing in the popular dance halls of Boston and traveling the world. She loved dogs and always had a bone available or a lap for a puppy. She was devoted to gardening, and plants thrived with her nurturing. Each growing season, color blossomed profusely around her house.
She found both joy and solace in her gardens and the natural world that she shared with and nurtured in her children. She saw beauty and awe in the glory of a Cape Cod sunset, the twinkling stars of the dark night sky, the monarch butterflies sipping nectar in her gardens and the ever-changing moods of the ocean. She will be deeply missed.
There will be no visiting hours, and funeral arrangements are private. Expressions of sympathy may be sent to Chapman Funeral Home in Harwich. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to either of two charities dear to Betty: Guiding Eyes for the Blind, 611 Granite Springs Road, Yorktown Heights, NY 10598 (guidingeyes.org) and Shriners Hospitals for Children, Attn: Processing Center, P.O. Box 947765, Atlanta, GA 30394 (lovetotherescue.org).