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Elizabeth (Betsy) Welmaker O'Connell

Obituary for Elizabeth (Betsy) Welmaker O'Connell

December 14, 1939 - November 9, 2019
Bulverde, Texas | Age 79

Obituary

She is predeceased by her husband of 33 years, Daniel Thomas O'Connell, her stepson Daniel Jr. and stepdaughter Marcy; her former husband Forrest Nolan Welmaker and former brother-in- law Felix Welmaker. She is survived by her brother, Byron Wright Skillin, Jr. of Trumbull, Connecticut and her niece Adele Skillin of New York City; her step-brother-in-law, Donald O'Connell of Vero Beach, Florida and step-sister-in-law Kathleen O'Connell of Montreal, Canada; her former sister-in-law Barbara Noe; son Forrest Nolan Welmaker, former daughter-in-law Denise Welmaker Naumann and granddaughters Annaliese and Emmerie in San Antonio; Forrest's dear friend Patti Stewart in San Antonio; her daughter Mary Elizabeth Young and her husband Michael, grandson Avery and granddaughter McKenzie in Austin; her son Byron Welmaker, former daughter-in-law Stephanie Nez Welmaker and granddaughters Kyla and Brinnah in San Antonio; her stepdaughter Laurie O'Connell in Vermont and step-grandson William Harrington in California; her stepdaughter Susan O'Connell Lamont and her husband Sandy in Tasmania, Australia; and many, much-loved nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

My name is Elizabeth (Betsy) Adele Skillin Welmaker O'Connell. I was born 14 December 1939 in New York City to Byron Wright Skillin of San Antonio,Texas and Adele von Schwanenfluegel of New York City. My father was in the US Army reserve before WWII. During the war he served in many countries including the USA, England, Algeria and India. In 1946 my family was one of the first dependents sent to war-torn Europe. The military billet in Paris was The Ritz Hotel (ooo la la), where we lived for a short time before moving to Wiesbaden, Germany. I spent three grade-school years in Germany and then returned to the U.S. (Falls Church, Virginia). In 1954 my father was reassigned, again stationed in Paris, France. It was there, when I was a teenager, that I met a G.I., the love of my life, on a train from Germany to Paris... Tom O'Connell from St. Albans, Vermont.

In 1957 my family returned to Arlington, Virginia. After graduating from high school, I worked for the CIA and attended night classes at Georgetown University School of Language & Linguistics. In February 1959 in San Antonio, Texas - quite by chance - I met a very handsome lawyer to whom I was married for 23 years. Nolan Welmaker blessed me with three children: Forrest, Mary Elizabeth, and Byron. Imagine a young woman, 19 years-old, born in New York City, educated in Europe, moving to South Texas and becoming a Texan!

Looking back on my life of almost 80 years, it's obvious the things that I have valued most... I volunteered in child-centered organizations, including Blue Birds, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, was a docent for the SA Zoo, helped to develop the string concert program for Cambridge Elementary, was a docent for the student concert program of the SA Symphony (along with my partner Helen McCrae), and, with my friend Ann Ash Griffith, so enjoyed cohosting the 1984 Symphony Ball, where we entertained the Spanish Ambassador to the US and raised funds to support the SA Symphony.

In 1971-72, as a member of the Woman's Auxiliary of the SA Bar Association, I performed a play (The Land of Zareba) for elementary students, showing them the value of law and order. My children have fond memories of carpooling with me in full-face dog make-up and shaggy costume with floppy ears and all! Later I was elected president of this fine organization.

One of my favorite activities in the 1970's was serving as a junior board member of the newly established Southwest Craft Center. The purpose of the Board was to turn the Craft Center into an accredited art school. Through the work of many volunteers this mission finally culminated in the Southwest School of Arts, which in 2013 was granted the authority to issue degrees in the State of Texas. My forte was putting together fundraising events like Angel Parties held at the Craft Center during the River Parade and the "Fiesta Thing" (in 1972) which became the Fiesta Arts Fair (in 1973). My work with the Board also helped to establish the private "Club Giraud" which supported the Craft Center and now supports the School of Arts with endowments.

In the 1970's, I also became a member, and later president, of "El Patronato", an organization that celebrated Hispanic culture through seminars and educational trips to Mexico. Through El Patronato, Pam SaldaƱa and I and our families hosted a traditional "Posada" at our home in Terrell Hills, where we celebrated Joseph and Mary's search for lodging in Bethlehem with a live reenactment complete with costumes, a newly constructed stable, dogs dressed as sheep and many youthful angels taking turns on Mary's donkey.

My love for the Spanish language and Hispanic culture began when I arrived in San Antonio in 1959 and began studying Spanish. Finally, at long last, after 19 years of ad hoc study, I earned my Bachelor's Degree in Spanish from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

In 1977 my dear friend (Mary Spalten) and I decided to open (of all things!) an African Violet Shop. This period, which lasted over 32 years, was one of my most memorable phases of my life. We officially opened Violet Talk in 1979 in a greenhouse structure, especially built for us, on The Boardwalk on Broadway. Four years later I became sole owner and moved "Violet Talk Gifts" to The Sunset Ridge Shopping Center on North New Braunfels. Many remember BETSY's HOMEMADE FUDGE, as well as gifts and African Violets. Following the sale of my gift shop in 2009, I found to my great joy a new work-home at Hanley-Wood in Alamo Heights.

Although some of my involvement with community organizations tapered off once I became a business owner, I remained connected with the community through my work with the Military Civilian Club, honoring my lifelong love of servicemen (my father having served in the Air Force and my husbands' having served in the Navy and the Army). I was also involved with the Botanical Gardens, honoring another lifelong love... gardening!

My love for gardening really blossomed when I married Tom O'Connell in 1983 and built our dream home, Deerbrook Farm in 1987. Truly, it was fate, since we first met in 1954, that Tom and I would marry in South Texas - a boy from Vermont and a girl from New York City, creating a whole new life of country living. Over the next 30+ years we created Deerbrook Farm - our Garden of Eden. One inspiration for our acres of gardens was The San Antonio Botanical Garden where I served on the Board for a number of years. Gradually the animals arrived 2 by 2 and grew to include: llamas, miniature donkeys, a pony, goats, chickens, ducks, turkeys, bunnies, birds, cats and many dogs including, TOM TIMBER!

In 1995, to my great joy, my grandchildren came 1 by 1. It was so nice that my children finally took turns. My first and only grandson, Avery, was born 1st to my daughter Mary Elizabeth and her husband Mike Young. In 1996 my youngest son Byron Welmaker and Stephanie had Kyla. In 1997 it was my 1st born's turn: Forrest Welmaker and his wife Denise had Annaliese. Following the above pattern came McKenzie, Brinnah and finally Emmerie in 2000. The arrival of each grandchild has been a blessing. They continue to bring me joy each and every day.

I thank God for a blessed life with a loving family, faithful friends and neighbors (special thanks to Brenda and Jim Kurth for always being close of heart and hand), and my bridge group of 53 years (especially Marcia Harris who for the last several years has helped make my life FUN!) and for the joy of living at Deerbrook Farm with its trees, beautiful gardens, animals, and the chickens too!

Anyone wishing to make a donation in Betsy's memory may donate to her church of 63 years: St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 315 E Pecan St, San Antonio, TX 78205. Donations may also be made to San Antonio Botanical Gardens, 555 Funston Pl, San Antonio, TX 78209.

A Memorial Service will be held on Friday, November 22, 2019 at 1:00pm, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 315 E. Pecan St. at 1:00 pm.

My husband and I were greatly honored to spend the last few months of my mom's life at her beautiful farm caring for her, the gardens, and the animals. She peacefully passed away with us by her side holding her hands. May she finally rest in peace! Mary Elizabeth Young.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • St. Mark's Episcopal Church
    315 E. Pecan St.
    San Antonio, TX 78205
  • San Antonio Botanical Gardens
    555 Funston Place
    San Antonio, TX 78209

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Porter Loring Mortuary

1101 McCullough Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78212
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