Betty Harrington — Our First Role Model


We grew up in what by all outer appearances was a model suburban family. Our Dad got up every day and went to work at his advertising agency in the heart of Boston. The five of us kids went to school, got good grades and stayed out of trouble. And our mother, Betty, had a warm meal on the table for us every night where we sat down to dinner together and shared the stories of our days.

Of course, Betty did much more than prepare the nightly meal. She kept the house tidy, wiped our tears and bandaged our scraped knees, helped us with our homework and made us feel safe from the troubles of the outside world.

Behind the scenes, Dad might not have been Ward and we most certainly weren’t the Beave and Wally. But our mother was as close to June Cleaver as anyone could get.

Our parents met at Mass Art, where Betty studied to be an art teacher. But she gave up any hope of a career when she married our Dad. Betty did not work with the exception of the occasional (unpaid no doubt) turn as a substitute teacher at our Catholic grade school and ultimately working gratis at our Dad’s company when we got a little older. She basically ran the joint in those later years but it was always presented under the guise that she was just helping him out. Betty was never in it for the glory.

It would have been easy for her to encourage us to follow in her footsteps — find a nice guy who could pay the bills, raise a big family and put any plans for a career on hold. Instead, she always urged us to follow our dreams, no matter how far flung they might have seemed.

When we chose to enter creative fields like filmmaking and graphic design, she didn’t flinch. Even when we announced a few days after college graduation that we’d be buying a car and moving to Los Angeles to get into the television industry, she swallowed any sign of sadness, helped us get our triptics at AAA and handed us her gas card to help ease the financial burden of the journey.

She always reinforced that we didn’t need men in our lives. If we were lucky enough to find someone we really liked (which we both did), then good for us. But if we chose to go it alone, then more power to us.

Every day she showed us by example that it is critical to put the needs of those you love first, to be kind and to be loving. Although she passed away in 1994, we carry her pearls of wisdom with us every single day. Some of our favorites are:

1. Everything happens for a reason.

2. Your brother and sisters are your best friends. Don’t ever forget it.

3. There’s no reason to say, “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

4. Worrying doesn’t do you any good. (We’re still working on that one).

5. I may get over it, but I’ll never be the same.

She may be gone but she will never be forgotten and luckily we see a little bit of her in each other every day. She was our first role model. She will always be our best role model. We wish you could have known her, too.

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