Betty Afton Hogan Berg drew her last breath on May 31, 2016 in Round Rock, Texas at age 92. Betty was born on January 31, 1924 in Hatch, Idaho to parents Alma Nelson Hogan and Elizabeth Myers Lloyd Hogan. Betty was the eldest of 5 children.
Betty became profoundly deaf at age 5 from a formidable foe, Spinal Meningitis and would have to learn to walk again. This took over 2 years and she entered the Idaho School for the Deaf at age 8. At 15, she read the book, “Gone with the Wind” and wrote a letter to author Margaret Mitchell asking if there would be a sequel. Betty was bookish and this served her well in life. Graduating in 1941, she headed off on a train with a full scholarship to attend Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. She travelled the train in a car full of American soldiers heading East. Assuredly, she was the topic of conversation aboard the Union Pacific as she was striking in personality, looks and spirit. She was in for a complete culture shock once she set foot on the streets of our nation’s capitol.
Awe-inspiring Georgian architecture, massive monuments, and big buildings were all new territory for this courageous cowgirl. The academic program at Gallaudet included Latin and she immersed herself in her studies and social activities—this was against the backdrop of a country still reeling from the Great Depression and awash in awe-inspiring patriotism during World War II.
Soon, she met a smart and reserved Montana boy, Thomas Olof Berg at a dance at Gallaudet and it was love at first sight for both. She was struck by how he comported himself as a gentleman. Tom said that Betty was “saucy” like his favorite cinema actress, Susan Hayward. They married on June 6, 1945. They balanced one another out, and together, they taught in two residential schools for the deaf, Maryland and Idaho. Later, Tom took a job as Assistant Dean of Students and Head Track Coach at Gallaudet College in 1956, and their growing family drove their 1956 Ford Fairlane from Idaho to the D.C. area. Betty was a stay-at-home mom for many years. Later, she would become a fixture at Gallaudet University in the Department of Sign Communication and taught sign language.
From the 1960’s through the 80’s, Betty would teach hundreds of students—some included a couple of U.S. Congressmen, past presidents of Gallaudet, parents of deaf children, and late deafened adults. One of her proudest achievements was teaching a young Army veteran who had recently lost his hearing to a bomb blast in Viet Nam. She helped this PTSD survivor in a significant way. Having two sons in the Navy (Fred) and Army (Dave) during that tumultuous era and knowing the costs of any war were particularly poignant for Betty. Especially then. In 1973 she started teaching sign language in the public school system. She retired from Parkdale High School in 1986 having inspired many young students to pursue careers in deaf education, interpreting, etc. Betty was there at its genesis when sign language instruction was gaining momentum and traction. Today, American Sign Language has risen to great prominence and meets the criteria of a foreign language credit in many high schools across the country.
Betty had no artificial persona. She took people at face value and saw beyond labels, class distinction, and background. She was a “people person” to her core. Part of her calling card was her authenticity. Known for her fire, loyalty, intelligence and her fun loving nature, Betty’s pioneer heritage was strong. She held true to her core values and beliefs throughout her life never caving or knuckling under pressure to conform to anything that did not ring true to her. Her parents forged a fruitful life and were proud cattle ranchers of the BAR ON located on the Oregon Trail. Through determination and grit, it was one of the nicest ranches in Southeastern Idaho.
Betty loved the rugged beauty of the Mountain West. She recalled instances when her father would ask her to join him on cattle drives and she went along with great joy coming back from each long ride caked with trail dust. When asked recently if she was a proud Idahoan, she exclaimed with steely and squinted blue-grey eyes, “you bet I am!” Her life force was full of verve and her laugh was infectious to the ear and eye. She was a tremendous helpmate to her wonderful husband, Tom, and was a beloved teacher and friend to many.
Clearly, the centerpiece of Betty’s life were her family. Survivors include her beloved children Frederick, David and Jennifer. Daughters-in-Law include Chris and Rosario. Grandchildren are Sarah, Erika, David and Trina. Great grandchildren are Levi, and twins Owen and Braxton, her sisters Joyce Bowles (George), Mary Anne Yorgason (Kendall) and Susanne Eliason(Peter). She is predeceased by her beloved brother, Bill and her loving and faithful husband, Tom. Her earthly departure leaves a big hole in our hearts, but we know we shall see her again.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the your local animal shelter or the Veterans of Foreign Wars (vfw.org ) in her memory. Services under the direction of Sims Funeral Services, Soda Springs, Idaho (208) 547-3742). Funeral will be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints in Bancroft, Idaho on June 18, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. with internment to follow in Chesterfield, Idaho. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If for Girls” was her guiding light for 75 years; it hung proudly in the original frame by her bedside since she was a teen. Go sweetly, Betty Afton. Psalms 23.