Obituary: Betty Lorraine Oba Massey

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April 29, 1931 ~ April 12, 2021

Betty Massey

Betty Lorraine Boice was born on April 29, 1931, to Edwin and Mary Boice in Manassa, Colorado. She was the second daughter in a family of five daughters (LaRee, Verla, Maevonne, Betty, and Gladys) and two sons (Dale and Dean). She grew up in rural communities in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. From early in her youth, Betty was an avid reader. Her youngest sister, Gladys, recalls that when Betty was just beginning to read in school, she was even willing to forgo a rare train trip from Alamosa to Los Angeles with her mother because she had just started reading Dick and Jane and didn’t want to miss out on learning what happened to “Spot” the dog. Gladys also recalled that on occasions when their mother stepped out to help a neighbor, it was left to “the girls” to fire up the stove and begin preparing the evening meal. One time, however, Betty and her sister arrived home from school and immediately became so absorbed in their reading that they sat with their coats on in the cold living room. Their mom was none too pleased to arrive home and find the assigned tasks undone. Reportedly, there were repercussions for the two guilty parties. Gladys credits Betty for introducing running to Bountiful, Colorado. Betty would run from Bountiful to the nearest post office three miles away in La Jara to pick up the mail, but she was frequently stopped by kind drivers on the highway who wanted to ask if she needed help. Throughout her life, Betty continued to engage in an active lifestyle, even braving encounters with bears to do her jogging in Alaska.

Betty graduated magna cum laude from Adams State College in Alamosa, Colorado, in 1953. Shortly after graduation, Betty left home to fly to New York and on to Germany to marry the first love of her life, Herbert Hiroshi Oba, who was then stationed as an Army medic at Landstuhl, Germany. In marrying Herb, Betty chose love over those who counseled against “interracial” marriage. After Herb’s tour of duty was over, they returned to the San Luis Valley and she began her career as a schoolteacher and mother. Their first son, Gary, was born in 1955 and two years later Douglas was born. Both Betty and Herb had fulfilling careers as educators, teaching first in Hooper, Colorado, and then moving to Meeker, Colorado, where Betty taught in the elementary school and Herb was the principal. Because of their experience in applying innovative teaching practices in rural communities, they were invited to teach a summer methods course at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks for new teachers who were assigned to teach in remote Alaskan villages. They spent many summers traveling with their boys to Fairbanks to help these young teachers. Eventually, they moved to Dillingham, Alaska, and then later to St. Mary’s, Alaska, where she continued to teach elementary school and Herb was the superintendent. In Dillingham, under the tutelage of kind neighbors who became close friends, Betty learned to subsistence fish for salmon, some of which she would can and kipper. After three decades as dedicated educators, they retired to Gainesville, Florida, where they helped care for Doug’s two young children. Lynn, their first grandchild, proudly remembers this period as when “Grandma taught me to read and instilled the love of reading in my life.”

Betty’s life was also filled with service to many others and the retirement years gave more opportunities to expand in that capacity. She and Herb served a year-long service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in San Francisco working primarily with Spanish-speaking families. Later they spent a year in Jiaozuo, China, as volunteers teaching English at a university. Afterwards, between spending time at their cabin upriver from Meeker, Colorado, in Buford and building and shortly afterwards selling a home in Grand Junction, Colorado, they continued their world travels including to Germany, Portugal, Guinea Bissau in West Africa, and Japan to see Gary and his family. After 40 years of marriage, Herb died in August 1993. Betty continued to live in Buford and spent some time living with Gary and his family in southern Taiwan where she taught English courses at a several universities and colleges.

In April 1998, Betty married Jarrell Massey. Friends from the Meeker Ward had invited the two over for dinner and, according to their own account, they “monopolized the conversation” and found many shared connections, including the fact they had both lived in Manassa, Colorado. Betty embarked on a new life which involved a lot of traveling in northwest Colorado, both with Jarrell’s work with Northwest Colorado Ranching for Wildlife and his responsibilities as the Meeker Stake Patriarch. Jarrell’s family warmly embraced Betty and made her part of their extended family. They served together as temple workers at the Vernal Utah Temple and jointly helped lead an addiction recovery program. Jarrell loved to garden and would fill their car with garden produce all summer long to freely share with church members and friends. Later, when they moved from Meeker to Rangely, Jarrell planted fruit trees that wouldn’t grow upriver in Buford and had even larger vegetable plots.

Jarrell’s passing in March 2015, once again brought intense grief to Betty. While she had been up to the challenge of living alone with her trusted golden lab, Shoji, after Herb died, following Jarrell’s passing, she decided to live with Gary in Yokohama, Japan. Several years later, when Gary retired from the U.S. Department of State, they both moved to Buford where she was once again home in her lovely cabin amongst the aspens. During her final years she still continued her travels, spending lengthy stays with Doug and his wife, Ellen, in Germany and later in Italy.

Blessed with a rich Mormon pioneer heritage, Betty had a deep and abiding faith in God. She passed away peacefully after courageously battling dementia that advanced rapidly after she broke her hip in a fall in early January this year.

Betty is survived by two siblings, Gladys Tolbert (John) and Dean Boice (Beverly), two sons, Gary and Douglas Oba (Ellen), seven grandchildren, Alisa Christensen (Allen), Ken Oba (Leslie), Lynn Holm (Janson), Eric Oba, Sara Wood (Quinton), Antonio Oba, and Elijah Oba, and 11 great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, husbands, and her sisters, LaRee, Verla, and Maevonne, and her brother, Dale.

Funeral services will be held at the Meeker Ward chapel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 24 (903 Third St., Meeker, Colorado). The family asks that those attending the service wear face masks. The service can also be viewed via Zoom. Please contact douglasoba@msn.com if you would like the Zoom access information. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Meeker Public Library (490 Main St., Meeker, Colorado, 81641) for the purchase of books for children and youth.

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