“I've found that the more friends I have, the luckier I am.” -Johnny Mathis
Elizabeth (Bette) Champagne was, by her idol Johnny Mathis’ definition, an exceedingly lucky woman. A voracious reader, a gentle encourager and a kind listener, Bette became a loyal friend to many. Her laugh was contagious, and her ability to laugh at herself drew people to her. Her sense of humor was both brilliant and silly, and her blatant honesty and sage advice were endearing to those lucky enough to call her friend. She leaves behind her childhood friend’s, Judy (O’Brien) Fagan, Delores (Do) Hutchins, and long-time friends Marge Teed and Ruth Caldwell. She is pre-deceased by many dear friends with whom she is without a doubt enjoying a cocktail and some raucous laughter.
Bette was born on November 10, 1931 in Presque Isle, ME, to Rose (Butler) Markee and Jerry Markee. She is pre-deceased by her parents and her four siblings, John Markee, Ambrose Markee, William (Billy) Markee, and Alice Koronkiewicz. She is survived by her niece Carol Bergen, and nephews Patrick and Michael Koronkiewicz, and James (Jimmy) Markee. Bette’s fondest memories of Presque Isle included singing harmonies with her mother and sister, helping her dad collect payments for his auto detailing business, and picking potatoes for Maine Potato Growers. She bragged that she learned to drive a tractor at the age of 13.
In 1957 Bette moved to Cape Cod, MA. She met and married Henry Champagne, who then served in the US Air Force. From 1958 until 1975, Bette supervised a D.O.D. approved Child Care Center and later a Performing Arts Group (Little Theater) on Otis Air Force Base. She became the Non-Appropriation Fund Manager for Otis A.F.B. supporting the base and North Truro A.F.S. recreational activities. When the U.S.A.F. deactivated the Super Connie EC-121 Operation, Bette remained as part of the Air Base group transition team and managed the relocation of support activities. She assisted with operating the commissary until the A.F base consolidated with the U.S. Coast Guard Exchange facilities, and relocated the Child Care Facility and Transient Quarters. Bette later found a heart for human services and worked as a house manager for Dare Family Services for several years. From 1998-2004, Bette worked for The Arc of Cape Cod as a PCA surrogate and office manager and from 2008-2011 as a direct support staff. Bette recalled each of these positions with fondness, and loved to reminisce about her family’s days at Otis AFB and her work with Central Based Funds. In her later jobs she earned a reputation as a fierce advocate and strong voice for people with disabilities.
Bette’s family was everything to her, and she relished being a matriarch. Her love of a good party continues to bless family gatherings today as her children and grandchildren honor her love of cooking and of abundant food. Bette maintained a close relationship with her former husband, Henry Champagne, with her sisters and brothers in law Betty and Ernie Charette, Frank Champagne, Phyllis Lane, Leo Champagne and Paul and Carolyn Champagne, and with nephews William (Billy) Lane and Paul Champagne II. Bette loved to joke that each of her children was her favorite, but the reality is that each was at different times, for different reasons. One of her greatest sorrows was the death of her daughter, Cathy Clarke in 2011. She never lost her longing to hear Cathy’s laugh. She balanced her sorrow with the great joy she took in Cathy’s children- grandson Peter Tilton of Sandwich, MA, granddaughter Jessica Tilton-Dwyer and husband James of Sandwich, MA, and great-grandchildren Siena, Annah and Caulder. Bette beamed with pride when talking about her son John Champagne, and his wife Heidi Champagne of Forestdale, MA, and grandchildren William, Daniel, Michelle, Tanya, Nichol, Colin, Cian and Aimee Rose. Perhaps Bette’s biggest tender spot was witnessing the happiness of her youngest daughter, Lisa Champagne-Sweet’s, union with husband Michael Sweet of Plymouth, MA, and step-grandchildren Michael Sweet II and Ellena Sweet.
Bette died in comfort and peace on July 28, 2018. In her last days, Bette knew the comfort and love of her family. She smiled as Lisa stroked her hair, and John held her hand. She was grateful for visits from her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and the opportunity to meet her newest great-grandson. She had visits and cards from friends old and new, and she found humor even in her illness. Her honest words, her love, her beautiful singing voice, her advocacy and the easy way she gained the confidences of so many will be missed by all who loved her.
The family would like to express their gratitude to Elder Services of Cape Cod, VNA of Cape Cod, everyone at Greater Boston, especially her caretakers Lisa Murphy and Tammy Willoughby, Dr. Grover Baxley, Dr. Jose Reyes, Dr. Rose Shorter and the staff of Cape Heritage for their loving care.
The family will be having a service at Flying Bridge Restaurant in Falmouth, MA at 11:00 AM on September 22nd, 2018 followed by a celebration of her life until 3:00 PM. In lieu of flowers, Bette would have been honored by donations in her name to The Arc of Cape Cod, PO Box 428, Hyannis, MA 02601. Donations can be made by mail or online. If you are unable to attend the celebration of Bette's life you are encouraged to share stories or condolences here.