obit template2018-11-29T12:10:12+00:00

Betty M.

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

Past Comments

David D'Amato

I remember Sunday pasta with Aunt Betty, Uncle Jim and Grandma and Grandpa D’Amato at their house on the East Side. As young as I was then, I still have a very clear memory of a house full of people and laughter. I will remember her for her kindness, her laugh, and her always saying “God Bless You” to me. To some people those are just words but she really meant it! I will also remember how good she treated David Jr. on his many summer trips to Milwaukee – like one of her own grandchildren. I will miss her but I live with the hope of seeing her again.


David D’Amato and Family

Nancy D'Amato

What great memories I have of my sister-in-law, Betty. We bowled together on a team in the late 70s and while the scores weren’t good , the laughter and fun were! Betty will always live in our memories as a role model for motherhood and a sweet sister to baby brother, Pete.

Becky Storm

‘Mom’ Higgins was a special lady. Someone who always greeted you warmly, took you into her heart, and loved to laugh with you. I admired that she always knew who she was and lived what was important to her: faith & family.

Ed Suminski

Mrs. Higgins

A very kind, gentle, caring person.

Growing up on the East Side we would “hang out”. Often you could find us out in front of the Higgins’s House. Pat, and the rest of us guys. Mrs. Higgins would always ask how we were doing and show concern for what was happening with her Pat and as I felt the rest of her boys. When we were there we were like one of her children. She would feed us, give us rides to practice or other events.

In 1974, Mrs. Higgins was instrumental in getting me a job at A.C. Spark Plug, when the catalytic converters were beginning to be built. She again was looking out for one of her boys. Today, looking back at that ack of kindness I realize that God puts special people in our lives to help us achieve what His purpose is in our life. Mrs Higgins is was of those people. I would express my gratitude for her help when I would see her. Her humble response would be, Oh, that was nothing. How is your family? God Bless You!

I just need to say it one more time. Thank you Mrs Higgins

God has truely blessed us, by putting you in our life.

Gene Damato

I’ll always remember our many trips to lake Mills in the 50’s. They were fun days of swimming and picnicking.

Jan Reese


You have touched so many lives, whether through a smile, a kind word or the comfort one felt, knowing you were there for them. I have known and worked with you at Delco from the late 1970’s until your retirement and through all the trials and tribulations I have had to endure at that time of my life, there has always been this glowing section within my wellbeing that was reserved for you. You were my mother when my mother could not be with me, you were my should when a shoulder I neeeded to cry on, you were my salvation when I felt the whole world had beaten me down and taken just about everything that could humanly be taken from a person and you were my protector and guidance when I was lost. But most of all, you considered me as one of your daughters, and that is the glowing section of my wellbeing that is reserved for you, one which I will always honor and cherish.

Betty, as you journey through the heavens, may you find Jim and again experience true love and a renewed life. As you will be deeply missed, your memories will live on.

God Bless

Jan Reese

Gary D'Amato

I echo what my brother David said about those trips to the East Side when we were kids, piling into the Oldsmobile or, later, the white Volkswagon Beetle to visit Uncle Jim and Aunt Betty … and the pasta — still haven’t tasted any better! Aunt Betty had that loud, genuine laugh that was so infectious; you found yourself laughing right along with her. I can still hear that laugh and will be able to for the rest of my life.

Linda Stolzmann

I too, along with my brothers Gary and David, remember visiting Aunt Betty, Uncle Jim and grandpa and grandma on those Sunday afternoons. Instead of the pasta though, I remember the pizza. I had my first taste of pizza in Aunt Betty’s kitchen and I’ve loved it ever since. She was the most genuine person I’ve ever known. When she told you she was praying for you and your family, there was no doubt that she was doing it. I’ll never forget the most generous act of kindness when she flew down to Florida to be with my mom when David was so sick. That was Aunt Betty–always putting others first. Aunt Betty, I love you and I’ll miss you. I, too, check the gas every night before I go to bed, and I’ll think of you each time I do it.


Unfortunatly I never had the experience of meeting Betty personally but do know she must of been an angel to have raised such a wonderful daughter Marilyn the words that describe Betty also describe Marilyn I do know that I was praying for Peace & healing for Betty & realize our prayers were answered . Rest now Betty your suffering is over .

Take care of your family now Betty ……you were to well loved to ever be forgotton.

Kathleen DuBois

Charlene Heise

While I met Betty only once, from that brief meeting it was evident how much she loved her family and how proud she was of them. I felt right then like I could also call her “mom.” I am so grateful I had that chance to be blessed by her. I am also glad that those blessings continue in her family.

Much love and sympathy,


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