Martin Rush

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Betty's obit

Mary Elizabeth (‘Betty’) Miller Rush
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of Betty Rush

‘Betty’ Miller Rush was born on the day her cousin Catherine turned seven. Betty’s mother told the little girl, "Catherine, since your cousin was born on your birthday, you can name her. What name do you want to give the baby?"

‘Mary Elizabeth’ is the name Catherine chose. Over the years, ‘Mary Elizabeth’ tried on many different names – Liz, Elizabeth, and others – until finally settling on ‘Betty’ as the one that felt right.

Betty’s father was a figure in the community – a minister – so Betty spent most of her childhood known as a preacher’s daughter. There were times in her childhood when church services were held in her living room. The family was poor, but lived by their father’s principal: The Lord will provide. Unlikely events occurred where, just at the last moment, someone offered one of her brothers a job and the family was able to buy dinner, or a parishioner raced to the train station to give the family a cash gift from the congregation, which allowed them to purchase tickets to their destination.

With her flaming red hair and curvy figure, Betty attracted the attentions of many boys her brothers chased away. After just one semester, it was clear her family could not afford for her to attend college, so she returned home and took a job to support them, working at the YMCA, Faye’s Drugstore, a jewelry counter, a restaurant and elsewhere, always getting promotions, lining up customers out to the street and making a memorable impression.
In Middletown, she met the love of her life, a young man also from poor roots, Martin Rush, through the Youth Temperance Council, part of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, which advocated and supported wholesome activities – and avoidance of alcohol – for young people. She married him in 1941 just before she turned 25, six months past his 22nd birthday.

With the threat of being drafted, he enlisted, a tale which he chronicled in his memoir, Music Bravely Ringing (iUniverse). The couple wrote letters daily, sometimes several times in one day. He returned safely in 1945 and began college on the GI bill. They had a son in 1947, and in 1950, Martin was accepted as a Rhodes Scholar. The family moved to England for a year and a half, which forever changed the outlook of each of them: Now they truly believed that anything was possible. Martin aimed to be a physician, and Betty aimed to be whatever was needed of her.

The first birth that Martin, a medical student, ever witnessed was in January 1953 when his instructor allowed him to scrub in while his daughter was being born. By this time, Betty had blossomed as a person adept at paving the way for her husband’s success. During the war, she used every paycheck he sent home to help pay off their home mortgage, so that he returned home to find he had no debt! They lived in the house Betty’s father and Martin had built just as the young soldier was about to leave to go overseas. Now, Betty transformed the "Little Brown House" into a doctor’s office, the same way her mother had transformed their family’s living room into a church.

Five years into his life as a small town success story – hard-working-poor-boy-does-good-and-becomes a successful-doctor – Martin decided his energies belonged at an earlier point in people’s troubles: instead of treating a medical condition after it developed, he had deep faith that people’s ailments developed because their lives made them unhappy. He wanted to practice psychiatry.

During his college years, he had faltered. Concerned that he would not be able to support his wife and son unless he moved through his education quickly, he briefly flirted with the idea of majoring in English instead of pre-med. Betty persuaded him he should follow his heart. Now, again, he was at a fork in the road. Despite having a thriving medical practice, with Betty’s blessing, Martin walked away from financial security to do what he believed in.

The couple purchased a broken down 1845 farmhouse and moved to a hamlet called Blue Ball the edge of Middletown where they lived on loans while Martin attended school to earn yet another degree, as Betty almost single-handedly painted, scraped and scoured the farmhouse back to its former glory. Martin opened the doors to his new office as Middletown’s first psychiatrist in 1962 in bedrooms in the farmhouse Betty had restored. A few years later when his practice was well-established, he renovated a chicken coop in the barnyard and moved his practice there, where he continued to practice until months before his death in 2010.

During their many years in Blue Ball, Betty started many clubs and hosted parties. Rather than joining a country club, they built an indoor swimming pool near the house, so that Betty, a fair-skinned redhead, would not get sunburned. They filled up the property with pets – dogs, horses, peacocks, guinea hens, chickens, ducks, a cat or two, goats for awhile and, briefly, sheep.
They had continued to have ownership of the "Little Brown House" where they’d lived when they first married. In the 1970s, as a way of combating Empty Nest Syndrome, Betty began using that house as The Weaver’s Cottage, a place where she could bring in craft instructors to teach classes. She started a crafts guild, learned weaving, bought looms, and taught others all the assorted arts related to weaving including spinning, carding wool, making skeins, setting up a loom and doing the weaving. She also taught knitting, crocheting, and lace making and offered resources on quilting. Instructors taught jewelry-making, ceramics, and other crafts.

In Blue Ball, she began having a "Down On The Farm" festival in the barnyard every year on July 4th, where craft makers could come, for free, and sell their work to anyone who wanted to come look, at no charge. The festivals were wildly popular for the decade when they were offered.

In the mid 1980s, with failing health, Betty began thinking it would be better if they could sell the farmhouse and move into Middletown to a modest little house she had purchased, surrounded on three sides by Forest Hills Golf Course. The only problem she could see was, how would they ever find a buyer for the farmhouse (which they had nicknamed "The White Elephant")? For years Martin had provided them with such a good living, they had not needed to put their faith to the test about any of their wishes. Anything they wanted, they simply bought.

Without ever putting out a sign, contacting a realtor or even trying to spread the word that they’d like to sell the farmhouse, one day in 1985, a Cadillac with two young men and an elderly lady drove up the farmhouse driveway and asked Betty who owned the house because they wanted to buy it. Within months, a deal was struck and the Rushes moved to the Golf Course house in town. Martin continued to practice psychiatry in the barnyard, occasionally waving across the fence to the new owners of the farmhouse where the Rushes had lived for 25 years.

In 1992, Betty suffered a heart condition which haunted her the rest of her days: her Mitral valve tore loose and had to be repaired during open heart surgery. In the years following, she had congestive heart problems but was able to travel with Martin to England several summers in a row, renting a house boat that carried them down the Thames, stopping off at ports along the way where the now-elderly pair guided their rented boat through locks and tethered it while they took walking tours through towns along the way.

At home, Betty belonged to a stitchery group she had started that met at the library. She handled all the bookkeeping for Martin’s business, typing checks on the 1940 typewriter Martin had used during WWII to write love letters to her. Until past age 80, Martin skied with his son, who, with his family, now lived in Colorado. Into his 90s, Martin played a monthly poker game with friends.

In 2004, Martin had a catastrophic stroke, from which he recovered enough so that he was able to resume his psychiatric practice. Betty’s congestive heart problems worsened.

In 2010, Cousin Catherine who had named Betty on her own seventh birthday, passed away several months after her 100th birthday. Although the cousins now lived far apart and sent only occasional notes to each other, her death was significant for Betty.

Periodically Betty entered the hospital for bronchial distress. Martin and Betty’s daughter and her husband moved to a nearby location and began hiring care givers to help them continue to live independently. Martin and Betty began to kiddingly refer to their house as Cynthia’s Nursing Home.

Betty’s life ended when Martin died in October, 2010. She drew her final breath in February 2011. Each died as they had wanted to, at home in their own bedroom, less than three and a half months apart.


April 2, 1986
(Journal Entry by Betty Rush)

I have just come from a memorial service held for Marge Sauer and it left me feeling that nothing had been said. As I drove over here, to my dear little Cottage, I thought, "What would I want them to say at a memorial service for me?"

There was a large crowd there and as I looked around, I realized how few names I knew -- faces, yes, but why don't I know names?

My friends seem to understand and Shirley Smith always says -- when I say a name wrong -- "Oh, she meant 'so-and-so' " -- and corrects me: "...But go on, we know who you mean..."

Maybe that was what was wrong with the service today -- he (the pastor) knew her name -- but I didn't feel he knew anything but that---

At my Memorial service, I want to say--

All of you - whose names I can't remember -- I always loved your face and what you had to say. I enjoyed talking with you and I remembered things you said to me and it made you special.

How I did love having people come to my house or to this Cottage, the the Women Especially meetings at the Women's Center, or the Art & Craft Guild meetings at Bank One and later at the Library -- how I loved it when the Historical Society had a good crowd or the sun shone on the 4th of July and we had a good "Down on the Farm Festival." I really loved having you there --

I'm happy that I had the opportunity to know so many nice people and that we could share some of the same interests.

This summer I will be 70 and where once that seemed old, now it doesn't seem old at all --

Lately though when I allow myself to think about all my "Miller" family being gone I think also about what dying is -- I am so fascinated by things old -- antiques -- "precious" and I guess that's what I think about death -- I can be precious --

The spark that is me won't burn out, it will just glow somewhere else. I'm going to be a thought-wave out there somewhere still loving. Whatever is "Me" -- is so precious it just gets consecreated in death.

Don't stop now. Go on living and loving. We'll miss each other -- and yet in the quiet of many an evening or the hush of an early morning, I've felt the precious nearness of Owen, Jim, Mother Dad, and at those times I knew that the unspoken moments are precious.

You've all been precious to me -- I'm glad you came and although we are saying "goodby" -- still we'll have precious moments again when you remember me.