By: Rebecca Hammond
SHALL I OPEN A MYTHICAL BOOK OF SUPERLATIVES? If you didn’t know Betty Laframboise, you might feel that what you’re about to read is a little over the top. But superlatives are the norm when friends describe Betty.
Betty Laframboise passed away in September, at age 93. Born in Canada, but spending most of her life here in Ferndale, she was a tireless volunteer and volunteer-recruiter; in fact, longtime friends like Peggy Snow joke that you didn’t want to let Betty know where you lived. She’d find you, and next you would find yourself involved, maybe to your own surprise. Snow found this out after a casual chat after a meeting at the library. Not only did Betty show up at Peggy’s door the next day with block club fliers, Peggy eventually found herself secretary. “Betty was the founder of the block club,” Peggy said.
Judy Wells, another longtime friend, said, “Betty was an ordinary person, but such an extremely special ordinary person. It’s hard to describe her. As much as a person can be a people person, she was one. Any way she could help, she helped. Politics or neighborhood or school stuff, she was gung-ho to do it. She was such a go-getter, willing to step in anywhere. We did most things together. If you saw one of us, you saw the other. People would even call us by each others’ names.”
What was she involved in? PTA. The Dream Cruise, right out of the starting gate. Those block clubs. Politics (she was one of Craig Covey’s staunchest supporters). School fairs. Improving Ferndale’s rather seedy downtown. She was active in her church, first St. James, and later St. Mary Magdalen in Hazel Park, as a hospital Eucharist volunteer among other things.
Wells said, “I don’t know how she ever had time to raise kids and take care of speculated that the key to Betty’s success was rootedness. “Almost everything Betty was involved in turned out to be a success because she always lived on the same street, and knew everybody. She lived there since her marriage.”
That marriage was to the late Henry Laframboise. The couple had six children, Mary Jo Ortiz, Roger, Bernie (Ferndale Friends staff photographer), Mary Louise West, Vincent, and Mary Rose (also deceased). She is survived by ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.
Former mayor Craig Covey told me, “Betty Laframboise was the first community activist I met in Ferndale three decades ago, and was organizing neighbors and advocating for Ferndale when most of us were still teenagers. When Ferndale hit one of its lower points, with a downtown known for strip clubs and massage parlors, Betty led the fight to protect the city from further decline. Without her, this town would never have had the chance to become the cool place it became.”
“She was a fierce advocate for the neighborhoods and especially the East side of Ferndale. She was no-nonsense, and politically a moderate, something that is rare these days and sorely needed,” Snow told me,
“Betty carried Craig’s [campaign] signs in her trunk and when she talked to someone in her travels that was interested, she had a sign for them.” Wells said, “She was one of the first to be involved in the Dream Cruise.
She was selling real estate then. We met at City Hall that first year. She was involved eight or nine years. We were worried to get enough people to come see the cars. We thought it would be just people from Ferndale and maybe Pleasant Ridge. And now look at it! Betty got volunteers because she went out beating the bushes.” Snow echoed this, saying, “One year she had near 100 volunteers. She arranged for food donations for them; that was at the old library meeting room. Volunteers could go there to cool off and have pizza. She thought it was very important to show appreciation to volunteers. Anything Betty did she put her all into.”
This past September 25, our city adopted a resolution, which reads in part:
Mayor David Coulter and the Ferndale City Council extends the City’s condolences to the family of Betty Laframboise. Betty Laframboise, 93, a longtime resident of Ferndale, died Monday, September 11, 2017. She was born December 31, 1923 in Leamington, Ontario, Canada to Frederick and Frances Haslam. Betty was an active volunteer over the years, participating in the PTA as Vice President at Wilson and Coolidge, President at Coolidge, and President of the PTA Council. She was also a former Chairperson of the Ferndale Block Club Network, An election worker for the city, and Eucharistic Volunteer at St. John Oakland Hospital.
Betty Laframboise was a credit to her family, as well as to our community and country. It is with deep sorrow that we mourn her loss.
“Framboise” is French for raspberry. In early Christian art, according to the Telegraph UK, raspberries symbolized kindness, and “the red juice was thought of as the blood running through the heart, where kindness originates.” Seems very fitting, doesn’t it?