Elizabeth Duff Shute

Betty and JohnSHUTE—Elizabeth Duff, of Sleepy Hollow, NY, and Chebeague Island, ME, on April 23, 2015, at the age of 99.

Born in Passaic NJ, she was raised there and in Naugatuck, CT. She graduated from Wellesley College in 1937 as a Wellesley College Scholar. A long time resident of Dobbs Ferry, NY, Betty volunteered for the Institute of International Education in New York City and the Donald R. Reed Speech and Hearing as well as Mental Health centers in Tarrytown, NY. For many years, she was also active in the Junior League of Westchester-on-Hudson and The Thursday Club. She was an avid ballroom dancer into her nineties.

She summered on Chebeague from the age of 11 until a few years ago. She is survived by daughters Gail S. Williams (wife of Omer S. J. Williams), and Jane S. Scifres, 5 grandchildren, Lisa Tucker, Heather Hurford, Thomas Scifres, James J. Williams and John W. Williams and 8 great grandchildren. She was predeceased by her husband John V. Shute and her daughter Elizabeth L. S. Roby.

A celebration of her life will be held on May 17, 2015 at 3:30 P.M. at Kendal on Hudson, Sleepy Hollow, New York. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in her memory and that of her daughter Elizabeth L. Roby to the Juvenile Diabetes  Research Fund,  jdrf.org



Eulogy by Jack Williams from Betty's service on May 17, 2015

First of all, I want to thank all of you for coming to the event this afternoon celebrating the life of Elizabeth "Betty" Duff Shute.  It is a real tribute to Betty that there are so many in attendance.  I am Jack Williams, Betty's son-in-law, and I've been asked to be the host for today's event.
We have a brief program today that is set forth in the program that was distributed. But we want this to be a participatory event and we are hoping for additional recollections and reflections at the end of the program.
First, I'm going to talk briefly about Betty's life as I've learned about it from her, her daughter, her friends and some writings that she has left behind.
Betty was born on January 1, 1916. Being born on January 1 had a certain advantage for Betty with Gail and me, because it meant we could invite her to New Year's Eve events as a birthday celebration. It was a great tradition for us for several of her birthdays and we enjoyed it immensely. It gave us an excuse to get all dressed up and go dancing and celebrating the turn of the New Year. It also made it easy to remember her birthday.

Betty grew up in Passaic, New Jersey and then the family moved to Naugatuck,  Connecticut where she attended the Naugatuck public schools. Her father was on the faculty of the high school, teaching manual arts and mechanical drawing. Through the magic of the Internet, I was able to locate the yearbook from the Class of 1933 at Naugatuck High School, where I found the following:

She was on the Senior Honor Roll with a grade average of 90.23%.

She was dramatic editor of the class yearbook, she played varsity basketball, she was involved in school tennis, and acted in several plays. The Dramatic Club of the high school nominated Betty for its Hall of Fame "Because she was heroine of both the Christmas and Senior Plays; Because she is so versatile, brilliant and no end of fun; Because of her vivacious  temperament and her moody-ness.!"

Her yearbook entry reads: "Pep, ecstasy, life, spell Betty. She's in on everything and simply can't keep still."
That quote shows you how clever the writer was. It certainly encapsulates everything that was Betty then and for the rest of her life.
Betty also wrote elsewhere "Bill Moody and I led the Senior Prom.  I was famous for two years".  I have found out that Bill Moody was the Class President at Naugatuck High School who she dated at the time.
On graduation from Naugutuck, Betty went to Wellesley College on a scholarship.  After her junior year she spent the summer of 1936 at the University of Munich on a scholarship awarded because of her proficiency in German. She remembers hearing Hitler  ranting on the radio while she was there.  But she also remembered that it was there that she gained an interest in the opera, buying librettos (which we found in her apartment here) and studying the music. It was an interest that she kept for the rest of her life.  After Germany she and her friend went to Italy, where, among other things, she acquired a passion for pasta that she also retained for the rest of her life.
Betty graduated from Wellesley College as Wellesley scholar in 1937. After Wellesley and a short stint collating papers for US Rubber Company, she gave in and took a course at Katie Gibbs in typing and shorthand.  Sadly, that was how it was for women in those days. She found a job at the Cahill Gordon law firm in New York where she met her husband-to-be, John Vanderlyn Shute, who had graduated from Bowdoin and Columbia Law School and was then a lawyer at Cahill.  She and John were married in September 1940 in Naugatuck. After a Chebeague Island honeymoon they moved to Forest Hills, then to Kew Gardens Hills, Long Island, where their first daughter, my wife, Gail, was born in 1942.

John enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and after John was shipped out on the USS Arkansas, the family spent a substantial part of the war years with Betty's father and mother. Betty recalled that the family had moved 13 times during the war, with Gail and the newly arrived second daughter, Lin, in tow. Betty recalled her greatest scare was when she heard that the Arkansas was under attack from Japanese Kamikaze aircraft. When she asked John later what he did, he said he "ducked".

After the war, John and Betty bought a house in Dobbs Ferry where they lived until the passing of her husband and she moved to smaller quarters in Hudson house and then to Kendal. During her life in Dobbs ferry and Hudson house, she engaged in any number of volunteer activities. She joined the Junior League in 1948 and was secretary and a board member there for at least five years. She was an active member for around 50 + years of the Thursday Club, a club that supports charities in the Hudson River Valley, serving at least one term as President.  She made sure I bought a table at the annual Thursday Club Gala when I was in a position to do so. For many years she volunteered at the Institute of International Education in New York, where she was Chairman of the host family program for about four years, commuting into New York City two or three days a week. She was also for some time on the board of the Tappan Zee Mental Health Center where she was named the Clinic Committee Chairman. She was President of her Wellesley alumni class of 1937 between its 25th and 30th reunions and was active in the Wellesley-in-Westchester club. She was  even a Girl Scout leader for four years.  She was proud of her volunteer activities.
Betty and John also raised their three children in Dobbs Ferry. It was a tremendous loss when their second daughter, Lin, passed away at age 36 from the complications of diabetes.  Betty remained close to Lin's husband, Joe Roby, and his wife to the end.  Thank you for coming today Joe.

Betty loved to travel. As I mentioned earlier, her first major travel adventure was at Wellesley when she and a friend traveled to Germany and Italy. Her husband John became Assistant General Counsel for NBC, and NBC's representative to the European broadcasting Union legal committee, specializing in satellite communications, in which capacity he traveled to Europe about every six months. Betty was able to go on some of those trips with him.  She particularly enjoyed trips to Helsinki, Finland and Athens, Greece. 
 She and John also traveled on other trips on their own. But to illustrate the nature of the person that was Betty, there was something unique about each of these trips. For instance, when they went to England, they came back with a collection of brass rubbings that they had created from memorial brasses in various churches and cathedrals they visited.  In one instance, Betty noted that they had to rouse the Rector so they could get into the church to make the rubbing. Nothing got in the way of Betty on a mission.  Collecting brass rubbings is fairly common now in England, but it wasn't at the time.

They also took a Lindblad tour of Russia at a time when it was still the Soviet Union and travel there was not a common thing for tourists to do. Betty was very curious and in her trip book notes "Hotel Rossya.  International hotel closed to tourists. For Eastern European businessmen: we sat in the lobby and tried to look East European!"  That was something I'm not sure I would do even now. They had quite an adventure getting out of Russia when the Russian airline Aeroflot refused to board Americans in retaliation for the United States refusing to let Gromyko land in New York after the Russians downed a Korean Airlines aircraft. Betty described the situation as "scary". After some delay, they detoured home on Austrian Airlines and Pan Am.
Betty always loved to dance. Gail remembers her mother having ballet slippers and taking tap dancing lessons during her childhood. It turns out that Betty had an offer from Arthur Murray's Studio to teach dancing after graduation from college, which she declined in order to take the job at Cahill Gordon that I mentioned earlier. Betty  and John had had long enjoyed going dancing together, frequently going to Roseland Dance City with friends of a similar bent and had taken ballroom dancing lessons for 10 years in the 1970s.
More recently, a new phase began when Gail came up with the idea of taking Betty to the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center in celebration of Betty's 80th birthday. Since Betty was born on January 1, why not celebrate on New Year's Eve?  So we did that.  Betty had a friend who knew a professional dancer, Bill Evans, who joined us for the party and we invited Betty's good friend, Ibbets Knapp, to join us as well. We found that Betty had been to the Rainbow Room before and had even won a dance contest there in 1936. Betty and Ibbets had such a wonderful time dancing that when they were invited to join a dancing group at the Colony Club in New York City, she and Ibbets joined immediately.  So they went to the Colony Club every Friday for so long as they were able. They also later added in a day at Roseland, known to Betty as "dance heaven", where John and Betty had been in the 1970s with their instructor and Betty had gone on a double date in 1936. Betty and Ibbets had a wonderful time traveling to their dance sessions and particularly talking about it in a mischievous,  conspiratorial way, like they were doing something naughty. We repeated the gala celebration with New Years Eve at the Union League Club, again with a professional dancer, Victor, for her 90th.  And Betty kept dancing for several years thereafter. 
Betty had a long relationship with Chebeague Island in Maine. Her father was born there in 1892 and she summered on Chebeague from the time she was 11 years old. She and John bought land and built a cottage there in 1953. They loved spending the entire summer there when John retired, and she persuaded her friend Ibbets to join her for several years after John's passing. She had a wide circle of friends on the Island who remember her fondly.  Probably her greatest joy was the opportunity that Chebeague gave her to be with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on their summer vacations for as long as she was able to get there. They always had a great time with her and will miss her walking on the beach with them and her lobster dinners.
Some notes from friends and neighbors on Chebeague:
"I remember Betty on the beach with us when we were just tots with her kind smile which never wavered over the many years I knew her. I always looked forward to seeing her when I came back to the island in the summer.
"60 + years! From being my "second mom" all summer long (I think I was at the Shute cottage more than my own ***) to becoming a dear friend in recent decades. Our many visits and conversations were lively, thought-provoking, and often hilarious. Betty's infectious laugh will remain in my heart forever
"Betty was an engaged and warm friend to boys and girls of a younger generation even as they ceased being boys and girls. You sensed that her interest in you and what you were thinking was sincere and her curiosity genuine. Of all my parents' friends on the island Betty was my favorite." 
 "She was a wonderful next door neighbor on Chebeague -- friend to all generations in our cottage. I loved talking with her, and I particularly admired her strength, courage, and sense of humor. She was so generous of her time with my children when young -- such as inviting them over to help her finish making cupcakes and to lick the bowl when she was done! "
When she decided to move to Kendal, she made herself right at home and talked to us about the good food at the dining room and the Bistro.  We were very impressed with the welcoming, friendly nature of the people here and the intellectual stimulation she got from her fellow residents.  Every time we came to Kendal, she introduced us to more and more people, reflecting how wide her circles were becoming.  I remember one Sunday she insisted on leaving a family event in order to get back to Kendal to join her Sunday evening friends. We are very thankful for the many friendships and the warmth she received from her fellow Kendal residents.
From a personal view, I first met Betty in 1963 on Thanksgiving weekend. Gail and I had begun dating that fall and Gail had invited me for Thanksgiving dinner. I was warmly greeted and immediately accepted as one of the family and I must say that Betty was my biggest supporter from that moment on. She made me feel at home at the time and over the years was my greatest fan, oftentimes to the great consternation of her daughter. That support was very helpful in keeping things going at some difficult times, and Gail and I will be celebrating our own 50th anniversary this July. It is sad that she will not be there to join the party.
One thing that continued to amaze us about Betty was how she remained so much aware, awake and in the world.  For many years she was a devoted reader of the Economist, from cover to cover, and read the New York Times daily. She loved to talk politics and every time I saw her, even up to the last time, she wanted to discuss the latest outrage committed by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey. I was amused when in the middle of a Christmas dinner, she turned to one of the other guests and asked, "So Rich, what you think of the fiscal cliff?". She knew exactly what it was and its consequences. When we first visited her apartment after her passing, there was the latest edition of the Economist next to her chair with a picture of Hillary Clinton on the cover. For better or for worse, Hillary lost a vote on April 23. And we found her engagement book with entries far into the future all carefully kept in her own hand. We found her checkbook and she was still writing her own checks up to the time she went to the hospital. She was amazingly with it to the end.  For that we are grateful.
As I mentioned before, Betty loved music. Betty's niece, Molly Hazen, from whom you have just heard, and her husband, Scott Gillam, visited Betty  frequently and they would go to the piano area here at Kendal's where Scott would play for Betty and, when she was alive, Ibbets.  So we thought it would be appropriate for Scott to play a piece or two in Betty's memory. Scott?