Betty Parli Fenton, 92, of Topeka, passed away peacefully surrounded by family on Thursday, March 25, 2021.
She was born September 21, 1928, in Axtell, Kansas, the oldest daughter of Edward and Marie (Wolf) Parli. She raised four children and later was a Santa Fe Credit Union branch manager.
Mrs. Fenton was a member of the First Baptist Church of Topeka, where she was proud to be the first woman moderator. She served on a variety of committees and boards at the church and at Brewster Place, including the Bereans Sunday School Class, Red Cross Circles as well as volunteering in the church office. She and Dale also cooked for many church events spanning fifty years and led senior tours.
Betty married Dale Fenton on August 2, 1947 in Topeka. She was preceded in death by her husband Dale; siblings Judy Steuve and Ross Parli; daughter Nancy Barron (survived by her husband Dave of Topeka) and daughter-in-law Peggy Fenton. Survivors include her children, Babs Swanson (Dave) of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, Ed Fenton (Noreen) of Topeka and Kevin Fenton (Suzanne) of Tallahassee, Florida; nine grandchildren; and thirteen great-grandchildren.
Betty was cremated and will be interred with her husband Dale at Memorial Park Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas. A memorial ceremony will be held at First Baptist Church at 3033 SW MacVicar Ave in Topeka on Saturday, March 27th at 11:00 am with a reception to follow. Memorial contributions may be made to the First Baptist Church of Topeka.
Dove Cremations and Funerals - Southwest Chapel is assisting the family.
To watch a live web broadcast of the service at 11:00 AM on Saturday, March 27th, please visit https://boxcast.tv/view/betty-fenton-527051.
Betty Fenton March 27, 2021 Eulogy
Mom grew up in in Axtell, Kansas, population 300. She lived the unremarkably life of a farm girl, which included using an outdoor toilet and sleeping in an attic bedroom where a hot brick at the foot of her bed kept her warm. On the Parli farm they raised cattle, horses, pigs, chickens and grew corn and soybeans. Her chores included milking the cows, gathering eggs and working the fields. She grew up riding her horse to town and one ride when she was ten resulted in the tip of her thumb being pinched off by the horse's harness. You may have noticed she often covered her right thumb by making a fist to hide it.
Our mother attended a one-room school house and SHE REALLY DID walk two miles through the mud and snow to get to school. She liked to walk alone. She didn’t want to walk with her younger sister, because Judy talked too much, and mom wanted to be alone with her dreams.
Her dreams must have included leaving the small-town life and moving to the big city because after high school she moved to Topeka and became a long-distance operator for Southwestern Bell. It was in Topeka she met and fell in love with Dale Fenton, a dashing marine who had just returned from the war. They met, dated 5 weeks and were married August 2, 1947 in the First Baptist Church.
Their dates and evenings out for most of their 52 years of marriage took place at the softball field. For all of our growing up years we watched dad pitch on multiple teams including a team at First Baptist Church. As Ed and Kevin grew she would watch all three of them play, and then watched Ed’s daughters, Alaina and Kayla’s teams. When she was not the “official score keeper” she would keep score on her fingers. Interesting fact, she counted everything. She counted how many were in the choir loft on Sundays, she counted stairs, money, and chores. She would often greet us at the door with “I have three things for you to do.” Most recently, how many red cars at any given time, were in the health center parking lot out her Evergreen apartment window.
Mom was an organizer and planner to her core. Holidays were always very special. She loved Christmas! I remember growing up she would talk about her “Christmas Account” at Credit Union saving a dime every week for Christmas presents. She could save money this way through dad’s account—at the time, women were not allowed to have their own bank account.
Mom was very social and was the instigator planning for evenings out and having people over. Nancy and I would sit on the stairs and listen to them talk and we would be embarrassed by her “cackle” laugh. She loved inviting new and old friends to dinner and often hosted card parties and singers from traveling choirs.
Early in their marriage mom and dad square danced every Saturday night. Later they learned ballroom dancing. One of our favorite memories was watching mom and dad glide across the dance floor while on cruises in the 1980’s.
Mom did everything fast. She talked fast, walked fast, cooked, and cleaned fast. She was an accomplished seamstress. She made all Nancy and my clothes and was artistic in choosing fabrics and patterns. We were always proud of our wardrobe.
Mom worked for the Santa Fe Credit Union starting as a teller and retired as Branch Manager after 29 years. Mom had an adventurous spirit and a desire to travel and after retirement she and dad planned bus trips for seniors. At the age of 91 she flew alone to attend one of Kevin’s concerts in Tallassee and a month later to Minneapolis to spend Christmas with us.
Though there were thirteen years between the birth of Nancy and Kevin, we always loved and looked forward to being together. We enjoyed mealtimes that involved Taco Salads, stories, jokes and much laughter. We played card games, went to softball games, waterskied and attended church activities. Mom’s favorite thing was filling the row with her family at First Baptist’s Christmas Eve service, seeing family members sing in the choir.
Mom loved us, cared for us well but was never generous with her praise. She would say she didn’t want us to get a “swelled head.” Recently a grandchild was asking mom questions about a particular child, and mom told about her birth, having to leave a Bereans social to get to the hospital. When asked if she was proud of this child, her response was “oh, I suppose so.” (but maybe it was just that particular child)
Mom and dad’s love for each other, their faith and commitment to God and the church was central to who they were and how they lived. They were generous with their time and resources, serving on many church boards, BYF leaders, making meals, etc.
The last year has been difficult physically for her, and when I asked her if she was discouraged she said, matter of factly “No. I’m old”. It seemed like she accepted her circumstances and was content.
A couple years ago, the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren came to Topeka to celebrate her 90th birthday. The activities included a Royals baseball game, of course, a Topeka Civic Theater musical, taco salad and we shared memories or what we admire about mom.
Some common themes her children and grandchildren expressed: her ability to laugh at herself; her strong work ethic; "being there" for special moments; her competency and strength; her servant's heart; her generosity; and her wisdom. Some said they were impressed that she continued learning. Reading as many as 4 devotionals daily as she sought to grow in her relationship with Jesus. She was always wanting to learn. In her late 80’s she wanted to own her own computer, and did her books on Quicken and she wanted an iPhone to learn how to text, and share pictures with grandchildren, and began to rely on Uber after she gave up her car.
Her overriding faith and commitment to God dictated every part of her life and fueled her relationships with family and friends.
We are grateful for our mom, grandmother and great grandmother, for how she impacted us and the world for good. She made a difference, and we honor the legacy she left us. She loved us well and we cherish her and will miss her deeply.
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