Betty Jean Oliver O’Dell passed away peacefully on Sept. 25 a little over a month before her 92nd birthday. She was under the care of Frontier Hospice at Rambling Oaks Assisted Living in Norman, Okla. with her adopted cat, Baby.
Betty Jean, never just Betty because Jean was a part of her first name and not a middle name, was born Oct. 28, 1924 at a farmhouse built in 1832 in Nobleboro to Sterling Palmer Oliver and Gwendoline Ridley Pinkham Oliver. She had four siblings: Palmer, David, Patience, and Mary Jane. Growing up during the Great Depression in Maine on beautiful Damariscotta Lake, she spent her free time swimming, skating, fishing, and rowing. She earned her school letter in hiking during high school and continued to enjoy travel throughout her life. Betty Jean earned the nickname Jeanie during her youth which stuck with her until she was married because her younger sister could not pronounce “Betty Jean.” She graduated from Lincoln Academy in Newcastle in 1943.
Betty Jean joined the U.S. Navy WAVES on March 22, 1945 and served at the Fleet Post Office in New York City, N.Y., until honorably discharged on Jan. 22, 1946 with a rank of Seaman First Class. While serving in New York, Betty Jean met Gordon O’Dell on Oct. 21, 1945. He was also in the Navy and had returned from submarine service on the USS Raton. They were married on Nov. 10 of the same year in the Navy Chapel and their marriage lasted for 58 years until Gordon’s death in 2004.
As a mother, Betty Jean raised three daughters, each born a year apart. As a grandmother, she cared for her grandchildren with care and affection, becoming a role model and inspiration to them. From a young age, she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and went on to teach Sunday school, become a Girl Scout leader, and Campfire Girls leader while remaining active working with children at her church, particularly the nursery, until her health started to decline. Betty Jean was a member of Ridgecrest United Methodist Church, where she and her husband were members of the Beacon Class.
Betty Jean learned early in life the importance of family, church, friendship, and good neighbors. She held these values throughout her life, such as treating others kindly and keeping the mind and eyes alert through learning. Learning inspired her life-long love of reading and she was rarely seen without a book near at hand.
Betty Jean was preceded in death by both her parents; daughter, Tyrell, and husband, Gordon.
She is survived by daughters, Sylvia O’Dell-Barhorst, and Pamela Zabawa; grandchildren, Christopher Zabawa, Patrick Zabawa, Julia Narramore, and Bettijean O’Dell-Barhorst; great-grandchildren, Angel Narramore, Ethan Narramore, Rory Carter, Mae Zabawa, and a soon-to-be-born great-granddaughter. She is loved and will be missed by all her family members and friends.
Funeral services will be held at Cornerstone United Methodist Church located at 2604 N. May Ave. Oklahoma City, Okla. Services will begin at 10 a.m., Mon., Oct. 3 followed by burial services, with military honors, at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, Okla. at 2 p.m. For more information on the services for Mrs. O’Dell, please visit www.primrosefuneralservice.com.
Friends and family are welcome to pay their respects to Betty Jean O’Dell from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Thurs., Sept. 29; 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Fri., Sept. 30; 12 to 5 p.m., Sat., Oct. 1, and 12 to 5 p.m., Sun., Oct. 2 at Primrose Funeral Services, 1109 North Porter Ave., Norman, Okla.