I met Betty Longhofer about 53 years ago. Aunt Betty was married to Kenneth Longhofer, a hard scrabble, hard working, farmer who worked the rocky wheat fields on the edge of the Flint Hills in North Central Kansas. Kenneth died too soon, a victim of the cigarettes, the harsh farm chemicals and the circumstances that come with the farm life. He's been gone more than 25 years. Betty left us this Monday.
Kenneth always seemed hard and uncompromising to me, but there was something to that hard edge to forced you to admire his tenacity. Betty was soft around the edges and gave him balance. She had an unvarnished charm and Midwestern sensibility that was the essence of the wisdom that you find in farm families across the great plains.
Together they raised three amazing children, Kenny, a farmer, Rita, who tried her hand at a singing career, and Keith, my running buddy out of the farm, now a veterinarian. They are all whip smart, with a strong sense of family and a sense of humor that sneaks up on you in like a Greg Maddox fastball. Being with anyone of my cousins is always a first rate exercise in the lost art of conversation.
As for my Aunt Betty, I remember her non-judgemental acceptance of a very odd and very picky eating little boy. She never made me feel bad about the way I was. Betty had a heart that accepted people at for who they were, as long as their hearts were in the right place. And it would go without saying that nothing will ever replace Aunt Betty's ice tea. It must have been the well water. A well that couldn't have possibly been as deep as her heart.
I will carry her with me forever.