Bette Lou Tingle was born July 3, 1934 to Elias and Kitty Tingle. Everything changed in The Tingle family, and in Frankford, Delaware. The banks were even closed the following day in celebration. She was the only girl born into the entire Tingle family from her grandparents forward. This had no effect at all on whether she was spoiled.
Bette Lou had fond memories of her childhood in Frankford. Her brother Buddy came along soon, who was not spoiled, but instead had to do most of the work around the farm. Living outside of town and slightly isolated, Bette Lou and Buddy entertained themselves with reading “funny books”, playing “Miss Tingle” – a game in which they constructed a pretend home in the barn for Bette to look after, and Buddy’s favorite game – cowboys and Indians. (Of course, there was no ill intent in their hearts.) Buddy always referred to Bette Lou as “Sis”, a nickname that the whole family adopted, including her own father. Buddy and Sis never argued, with the exception of Buddy pulling a china cabinet over on her… or was it the other way around? It was an ongoing subject of debate for their whole lives.
About the fourth grade, Bette Lou began to notice a young man from Dagsboro - Bill. Everything changed. By the eighth grade, Bette had decided that Bill would be replacing her brother Buddy as the person with whom to play “Miss Tingle”. Bill would come to work the tractor in Elias’s field, and Bette would watch him from her window. She only ever had eyes for Bill.
It probably didn’t take long for Bette to choose her life’s profession – nursing. Her mother, Kitty, was a nurse, and Bette shared that same nurse’s heart with her. But her chosen profession took second place to the real desire of her heart. She later wrote: “I always knew nursing was a way of helping others, which I so enjoyed… but my heart was always in creating a HOME!” You may have read from her obituary: “Bette’s one self-proclaimed dream was ‘to marry William and have a family.’ That dream was realized and it was clearly evident she lived her life devoted to it. Her dream blossomed into a much fuller life, characterized by her chosen profession.”
Bette Lou and Bill were married soon after she completed Nurse’s Training with The Delaware Hospital School of Nursing in 1955. They settled into a little house in Dagsboro. Everything changed in Dagsboro. She built friendships with her neighbors… friendships that would last a lifetime.
Bette spent years working in various capacities as a nurse. She loved the nursing profession, but more than dealing with physical ailments, she loved dealing with those who were hurting emotionally and spiritually. The desire of her heart evolved, and her deepest desire was to minister a complete healing.
In 1957, the first of three boys would be born. William Jr. was nicknamed Buddy Tim, after her brother (which speaks volumes about her love for him), with “Tim” added to distinguish the two. Soon afterwards, Bill and Bette bought their first home, also in Dagsboro. Everything changed on Hudson Road. Bette formed new friendships with neighbors, and endeared herself to them. A second son, Brent, came along in 1961. She toted Brent along on visits with her neighbors, allowing him to drink coffee, which gave him a bad disposition, and resulted in a lifelong coffee addiction.
All was well. Until 1963. Bette’s mother Kitty died soon after a tragic automobile accident. Kitty was 52 years of age, Bette was 29. She lost her best friend. Everything changed. We cannot know what our lives would have been like apart from Kitty’s death. But it is safe to assume it made Bette Lou stronger. She was forced to deal with great tragedy, and press on through great pain. It shaped her character. Is was a huge part of who she became.
Bette’s father remarried, and Jackie Rickards became the only grandmother Brent and Dean ever knew. She and her son Scott became Tingles, and part of our family, not just in name, but in heart. Jackie and Scott brought new life into a hurting family, and healing to nurse Bette.
The last little boy, Dean, came along in 1965, and Bette’s dream of creating her immediate family was complete. But her efforts to “create a home” never ceased. She nurtured her children and her grandchildren, loved them, and did her best to make them all feel loved throughout her life.
In 1970, in the midst of a great revival in the area, both Bette and Bill came into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ that they had not experienced before. Everything changed. The world as the family knew it would never be the same. New friendships were formed, a whole new sphere of people came along for Bette to impact. She immersed herself completely in her faith.
In 1972, Bill felt a calling to attend Bible School in New York. Bette quickly acknowledged this as the right thing to do, despite the detail that Bill would attend the first year alone - 8 hours away. The family joined him for the second and third year. It was not a popular move in the eyes of many. But they pressed on into what they felt they needed to do. After Bible School, Bill and Bette moved back to Dagsboro, to the delight of everyone.
After pioneering a church in Dagsboro, Bill felt another calling, and again chose the unpopular path of moving away, this time to pastor a church in New York. Everything changed in South Butler. Bill and Bette loved and pastored those folks for a season, building relationships, nurturing, and encouraging others in The Faith. Eventually Bill and Bette moved to PA, and were involved in another work with a group of believers. They returned to South Butler for a short season.
Then, in 1987, Bill and Bette returned to their beloved Delaware, relocating to the Bridgeville/Georgetown area, to be part of a church in Bridgeville. Everything changed in Bridgeville. Bill and Bette re-united with old friends, and spent years developing new relationships, sometimes in other churches, always moving forward. They built a home on Collins Pond, fulfilling a lifelong desire to live on the water, with dear old friends of theirs on one side of them, and dear new friends on the other.
Not long after their return to Delaware, Bill and Bette both got involved in a local chapter of The Christian Motorcyclist’s Association. Initially, Bette rode on the back of Bill’s bike. Eventually her health prevented this, but she was there in spirit. She loved being in CMA, and was serving as the current treasurer and “sunshine” lady, sending out cards to anyone needing encouragement.
Bette Lou’s was a life of changes. She did not run from change, she embraced it. Where her circumstances changed and placed her in different environments, she brought change to those around her. As she progressed through her life, that willingness to accept change and new challenges made her who she was, and she shared that experience willingly and enthusiastically.
But perhaps what she enjoyed more than sharing her experience was sharing her love of life. Her favorite objects of that love were her children, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren. She poured herself into them, always eager to attend an event, quick to celebrate our victories and sooth our pain in our defeats, always thrilled to see our lives on Facebook when she couldn’t see them in person, constantly encouraging us. She “Loved us oodles.”
On Saturday morning, September 2nd, Bette suffered a heart attack. It started at home, and continued while she was in the Emergency Room. The doctor inserted a stent, and she began to recover nicely. This time, everything did NOT change.
Everything was the same. Bette was true to her character. She expressed her appreciation for the care she was receiving. She talked about how there were no loose ends in her life. She had freely expressed her heart, shared the love she had, and her conscience was clear. She expressed her peace with her circumstances. She continued to encourage others.
Bette came home the following Wednesday, much to her delight. She had visitors that evening and through the day on Thursday. Early Friday morning, Bette passed quietly and quickly for reasons we don’t know. She was completely ready to go, but she was not ready to go. There was more living yet to do. There was more loving yet to do. But her work is done. And now she rests.
Bette’s father, Elias, wrote a short note and mailed it almost every day she was away in nurse’s training. That effort to reach out to her in love was yet another key to the love she herself desired to share. We found a letter, labeled “The last One”, sent to arrive on her last day of training. It is appropriate because it not only speaks of her earthly father’s love for her, but could also be spoken by her Heavenly Father. The letter ended with this: “ …The day you knew you would come to is here – I am so proud of you... in finishing this last day in training – so right now, stand up, lift the old chin a little higher, and be thankful.... I love you, Dad.”