Betty M. Higgins was a loving wife, caring mother and grandmother and a beloved follower of Christ. She was faithful and true, kind and generous, accomplished and fun-loving. Her actions spoke as loudly as her words as she daily demonstrated her love for God and her family.
Born Pitrina D’Amato on May 4, 1925 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Pitrina never knew how she came to be known as Betty. But such an endearing name was fitting for the precious daughter of Anthony and Maria (Pizzo) D’Amato and dear sister of Jake, Tony, Mary and Peter. She grew up in a strong Sicilian family in the historic Third Ward of a predominantly Italian neighborhood of Milwaukee. She attended Cass Street Grade School and Lincoln High School on the city’s east side, where she liked learning, enjoyed tennis and began to play the harp. The Catholic Church was prominent in her upbringing, and Betty’s faith figured deeply in her spiritual life.
Betty was in her early 20s when she met the man who would become her husband. James Higgins “swept her off her feet” as they glided over the dance floor upon their first meeting at the Eagle’s Club. Understandably, from that time on, “Sentimental Journey” became their favorite song.
After a whirlwind romance, Betty and James were married on November 24, 1946 at St. Rita’s Church in Milwaukee. They settled into a home on the city’s east side, not far from where Betty had grown up. It was a solid community in which to raise their five children: daughters Colleen, Eileen, Kathleen and Marilyn, and son Patrick. Betty loved her children dearly, as evidenced by the prayers she prayed for them each and every day.
Life in the Higgins family was robust and playful. Everyone enjoyed Betty’s fine Italian cooking, and her children needled her about an incident that was likely related to her early name change. When the kids went to City Hall for their birth certificates, they found that they had different names registered. They joked that they did not know whether their parents couldn’t decide on a name or if mom and dad didn’t want to claim them. Betty’s response was that City Hall must have made a mistake.
In 1951, Betty joined the workforce under the employment of A.C. Spark Plug at its Kenilworth plant on the east side of the city. When the plant was moved some 15 miles away in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, Betty had to reconfigure her transportation since she didn’t drive. She arranged a ride for a portion of the trip and then caught a bus for the remainder of her commute. That was the kind of dedication that marked her faithful service for years to come.
Then, at the age of 43, Betty realized a major goal: she earned a driver’s license. Yet that was only the beginning of her accomplishments. In her job, she worked on guidance systems for the Apollo Project that would put a man on the moon. She was rightfully proud of the award she received for eliminating a problem on a circuit board of the guidance system. In fact, the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, personally thanked Betty for her stellar achievement. When she retired in September of 1982, Betty was recognized as a valued employee for her 31 years of outstanding service.
With such success having come her way, it was very sad for Betty when her beloved husband James died on November 19, 1981. She leaned on her faith and her family at such a time, and offered prayers for many others, even as they prayed for her.
Betty was a selfless person. She did not care what happened to her, but she fervently prayed that she would never forget God. As a continual reminder of her devotion, she regularly attended church, where her spirit was renewed and her faith strengthened. For Betty, every day was good but Sunday was her favorite.
In her everyday practice of faith, Betty prayed for her family, friends and many more. She was nearly always in a posture of prayer and sometimes could be found sleeping next to her bed, still on her knees.
Family was very important to Betty. She liked it when they got together to bake Italian cookies for holidays and weddings. Vacation travel and golf outings were fun for the whole family. Over the years, Betty attended numerous events that involved her children and grandchildren, and she was their biggest and LOUDEST fan.
Betty’s children will remember the caring words she repeatedly spoke as they left the house: “Check the gas (to make sure the stove was turned off), lock the doors, look in your back seat, and call me when you get home.”
Betty M. Higgins (nee D’Amato) age 84 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin died on August 2, 2009…a Sunday.
Betty’s words of greeting now speak comfort to those she loved so dearly, “See you tomorrow, God willing,” and “God be with you.”
Betty was preceded in death by her beloved husband James. She is the cherished mother of Colleen (the late Michael) Berry, Eileen (Russell) Ilk, Patrick (Kathleen) Higgins, Kathleen Sivilotti and Marilyn (Steven) Roufus. Dear mother-in-law of Donald Sivilotti. Special aunt of Christine (Steve) Schantzen, Stephanie (Derek) Van Riper and Bryan Schantzen Loving grandmother of Gina Berry, Michelle (Tommy) Dougherty, Matthew Berry, Jennifer (Ofir) Amram, Bradley (Kristina) Ilk, Hope (John) Reiter, Todd (Kristin) Higgins, Sam Sivilotti, Natalie Sivilotti, Melissa Roufus, Jim Roufus and Tony Roufus. Great-grandmother of Eladia, Giana, Brooklyn, Cole and Jake. Dear sister of the late Jake (the late Betty) D’Amato, Tony (Joanne) D’Amato, Mary “Dolly” (the late Peter) Colla and Peter (Nancy) D’Amato. She is further survived by other relatives and friends.
Visitation is scheduled for Thursday. August 6 at the Funeral Home from 4 – 7 PM, prayer service at 7 PM. Funeral Mass will be held 10:30 AM Friday, August 7 at Three Holy Women Parish – St. Hedwig Church 1702 N. Humboldt Avenue. Entombment at Holy Cross Cemetery.
“Our family wishes to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Michael Fetherston for his 30 years of tender loving care and concern for our mother. We also wish to thank the staff of Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital – Milwaukee ICU 6D for the excellent care and compassion they gave our mother and our family.”
In lieu of flowers, memorials to Three Holy Women Legacy Fund, 1716 N. Humboldt Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 53202 are greatly appreciated.
The family was served by Suminski Family Funeral Homes, Suminski/Weiss, 1901 N. Farwell Ave (414) 276-5122. For additional information or to share a memory of Betty, please log on to www.lifestorynet.com
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