Betty L. Bardige

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Born in Boston, MA on July 7, 1950

Departed on November 24, 2019 and resided in Cambridge, MA

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Betty left us on November 24th after a long hospital stay to try to get her a new heart. She was, in the fullest sense of the word, a storyteller. We wanted you to hear a few of our stories about her and we would love to hear yours.

Art: I met Betty when she was 16. I was captured by her from the start. She came to see me to transfer out of the physics class was teaching at Nova High School to an advanced math class that met at the same time. We talked about physics for a while and I decided to create an independent study so that I could continue to work with her. We talked for so long that she missed her late bus and needed to be home for Rosh Hashanah. I drove her. That was the first of our many after school study sessions. By the end of that school year, I knew I was in trouble. Her love, her spirit, her luminous mind, and her beauty captivated me. When she went off to Wellesley College we filled mailboxes with love letters. When I came to Cambridge permanently she called me and told me to come to her. We were never separated. I have had the great good fortune to spend more than 50 years loving this woman, seeing her get a PhD from Harvard Ed, helping her raise our three wonderful children, adding two terrific daughters-in-law to our family, enjoying our grandson, Jakey, being her companion in her great mission for all children, caring for her, and yes, fulfilling the promise I made to her to see her dreams realized and our love letters shared.

Kori: Mom’s love for all children and families, but especially her own, shone through in everything she did. She had a way of making everyday things feel special and memorable and making those around her feel treasured. As a child, she would add my initials in pasta sauce to the top of the lasagna to show everyone that I had helped her make it. When I turned six, she gave me her childhood poem book that her grandmother had given her and helped me add my own poems to it. She insisted I wait until I was 12 and “ready” before allowing me read To Kill A Mockingbird, because she knew it would become my favorite book and she wanted to make sure I was mature enough to appreciate it. In high school, she would sit with me for hours, typing as I dictated my papers and asking questions to draw out my knowledge. In college, and even grad school, she would edit ones I’d written, helping to synthesize my ideas into something that expressed exactly what I was trying to say. Even from her hospital room, she helped me revise the first draft of a chapter for my thesis, offering suggestions, citations, and just the right phrasing to crystallize my thoughts. Even as I am struggling to write this obituary, I can’t help but think about how she would have the exact right words.

We would chat for hours about education. She was a wonderful sounding board for ideas, but always knew when and how to share her own vast knowledge. Always the consummate researcher, she was constantly reading and talking with experts to learn new techniques that could benefit children, families, and educators. When attending conferences together, I would watch in awe as mom went from session to session, gathering and sharing new ideas, stopping to talk with friends and colleagues, and making new connections to amplify her message. Her ability to create synergies and connect not only people but organizations and ideas was incredible. Mom had an unbelievable ability to not only support others in their goals, but to share her vision and invite others to join her in making a difference!

Brenan: My mother’s passion, tenacity, and unfailing optimism towards making a better, more just, more caring world are undeniable. But, as I reflect on the parts of her that I most admire, I think about how much she just loved life. She loved to play. She took every opportunity to add a little fun to what we were doing. Treasure hunts for our birthday and handmade Halloween costumes. Afterschool snacks made to look like clown faces. Epic word games while we waited for hours for me to get x-rays on a sprained ankle. She even gamely attempted to help us try things that were a little outside of her own comfort zone, like when her Julia Child-obsessed five-year-old decided he needed to master the art of French cuisine. In big and small ways, she never missed a chance to play with us.

As we got older, I also came to appreciate how much joy she got from being in this complicated and fascinating world. She loved to learn and to watch people learning. She could meet anyone and want to know everything about them and their lives. She would want me to recap every late night conversation I had with college friends--back when we were too young and naive to realize that we didn’t know everything about everything--just because she loved to hear how we thought about things. She wanted to hear over and over about every little milestone that Jake reached. Not because she didn’t already know what he could do, but because she just wanted to relish the moment again.
I once told her that I had come to expect bad news. She made me promise not to think that way. “You have the greatest little boy in the world,” she said, “it’s not possible to be pessimistic.” In that one simple sentence, she taught me everything that is important.

Arran: When I was in college, I would send papers to my mother just before they were due--like an hour before. Sometimes the paper would be due at midnight, sometimes at 8am, sometimes in the middle of the day. Every time, mom would edit it, perfectly, and she’d edit it in my voice. At the time mom was working on a few books of her own. She was a leader on several boards, and yet she would always take a moment to help me hone my thoughts but keep my own style.

Her favorite activities were cross-country skiing and paddle boarding. “I like gliding through the world,” she once said. She would go out on a perfectly calm lake and listen to the birds. She would slip across fresh snow and find all of the animal tracks (which, of course, she could identify even before we noticed they were there). When she came home from a trip, she would walk around our house and adjust every little tchotchke so that it was in just the right place. That was my mother, always finding the time to make everything a little bit better. She pretended to glide through the world but, of course, there are ripples of her everywhere. We see them in her push to ensure that every child has a strong start, we hear them in our cries against injustice, and we feel them in our bones from her immense, unending love.

At my wedding, we asked her to give a blessing. She chose an old Irish one with, of course, her own little twist. “May the road rise to meet you, may the wind always be at your back, and may the love that shines in your eyes tonight, continue to light the world.” As I think about my mom, I realize that that was her. Someone who so effortlessly moved through life that, at times, you forgot how much she lit up the world, but boy did she light it. She lit the whole damn thing. I love you, Mama.
Betty wanted more time. She needed more time. Indeed, she demanded more time to make the world a better place for children. She spent her last 4 months in a New York-Presbyterian hospital room trying to will her body to be ready for a new heart. She wanted more time because neither she nor the world was doing enough. Despite authoring over a dozen books for or about young children, despite using her poetic voice to improve many others, despite chairing the T. Berry Brazelton Touchpoints Foundation, despite her position as a board member, supporter, and moral compass of several philanthropic and visionary organizations, including Smart from the Start, Facing History and Ourselves, the A. L. Mailman Foundation, and the Cambridge Community Foundation, despite having touched the lives of thousands of people, she was not nearly finished.

Even when she was no longer allowed to leave the hospital, she wouldn’t stop pursuing her dream of a better world. No matter what therapy or treatment she was undergoing at that moment, she never stopped thinking about the future. Anyone who came to visit her was greeted with the same love and luminous smile, but she soon turned the conversation to how we could improve the lives of others. Whether discussing politics and the upcoming elections, exploring new educational ideas, or sharing new ventures, she lent each of us her wisdom and shared in our enthusiasm. Each of us was a new project-- a project to make our world a better place for all children. To be there with Betty was to feel the love, the care, and the enthusiasm she brought to life. To be there with Betty was to be enlisted in this struggle for a better future for all of our kids. To be there with Betty was to be embraced by the goodness in this world.

We appreciate you sharing your memories and hope you will join us in continuing to carry out Betty’s hopes and wishes in making this world a better place for children!

Guestbook Entries

  1. Chrissy Stelmack November 26, 2019 at 5:57 am - Reply

    Beautiful soul….gone too soon. My deepest condolences to the entire family.

  2. Patricia Keenan November 27, 2019 at 6:08 pm - Reply

    It was my honor to assist Betty in her work as a long-time, leading volunteer at Facing History and Ourselves. Staffing Betty was amazing because she took such an interest in everyone she encountered. Betty was a friend, as well.
    We will remember her kindness and generosity for years to come.

  3. Suzanne Williamson November 30, 2019 at 4:40 am - Reply

    Losing Betty is a loss for the entire early childhood community. Betty, we will miss you and remember not only the work you did, but the sense of commitment you shared with all of us.

  4. Anna Romer December 2, 2019 at 7:26 am - Reply

    Betty was an inspiring and energetic member of Facing History’s board. Her curiosity, interest and generosity made her a joy to be around and to work with. No matter who you were, you felt that real care and interest which felt personal and genuine. She wrote an early groundbreaking piece of research about Facing History, as well, during her doctoral studies at Harvard Graduate School of Education entitled “Things So Finely Human: Moral Sensibilities at Risk in Adolescence”. She had a great mind and an empathic and loving heart. I will miss her.

  5. Dr Vikki Georges Hufnagel December 4, 2019 at 11:48 am - Reply

    I did not know Betty as an adult. As a teen she was sweet and focused on the wellness of children. She worked for children who had birth trauma and genetic issues as a teenager making many awaken to the reality of frail human events. I have learned from her and will continue my work on ethics in education. The loss is great for those close to Betty and we have to loss of a gentle warrior to the battle of need change in the culture

  6. Beverly Franklin Duncan December 4, 2019 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Rest in peace, Betty, I am a better human being because of you and your family. Thank you.

  7. Debbie Elliott December 4, 2019 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    It’s difficult to articulate the breadth of the loss of this remarkable person. Betty was a dynamic force in the world of early childhood development and support for families. Vikki is exactly right. She was a gentle warrior with a sweet and sometimes delightfully childlike affect coupled with a brilliant mind and unswerving determination to advance the good. Her entire family reflects her genuis for catalyzing positive change in the world. She has been my dear friend since we were 14, and our families also shared the friendship. Right, Beverly, those of us who knew her are left with a sense of gratitude as well as the feeling that we’ve lost a North Star. But she would want us to carry on and be happy and fulfilled in her memory.

  8. FRAN SIMON December 5, 2019 at 9:37 am - Reply

    I am stunned to hear of the loss our one of the finest, most kind, and brilliant women I know. My deepest condolences to Kori and the entire family. Her careful determination to do right by children has impacted hundreds of thousands of early educators throughout the years, and she left a huge imprint in the field, and especially me. We will carry on her work to ensure her wisdom lives on. Rest in peace, Betty. You will be missed.

  9. Patricia Cloud December 6, 2019 at 2:15 am - Reply

    One of our kindest and gentlest classmates. There is a hole in our heart. I have many fond memories of our times and talks together. Brilliant and fortunate to marry the Love of her Life. Rest in Peace, my Dear One. You are missed. My great sympathy to your family.

  10. Patricia Cloud December 6, 2019 at 2:30 am - Reply

    One of my kindest and gentlest friends. I treasure our times and talks together. There is a hole in the heart of our class. My great sympathy to her family. Brilliant and fortunate to marry the Love of her Life. You are missed and it was a Blessing to know you.

  11. Erica Serrano December 9, 2019 at 10:02 am - Reply

    Betty will forever be a guiding light to everyone in Early Childhood Education. My deepest condolences to her family.

  12. Daphne N.Cole December 9, 2019 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Oh the world has lost a champion of champions.

    Her very presence in any group made the conversations much more richer. She lead us to think beyond the confines of the plan…many times she lead us to create bigger, brighter, better plans as we worked on behalf of children and family childcare educators and the community at large.

    She is one of the dearest shiniest gems in my treasured memory bank deposits.

    I served with her on NAFCC’s national board. I used many of her suggestions to build our family childcare mentoring program here in Tennessee. She told me how PROUD she was of the work I was doing!! That precious moment is seared in my memory bank forever and always…just as my respect…&…love for Betty will continue to shine brightly in my life!! I Love You Betty…Thanks for the Memories!!

    Thank you Art, Kori, Brenan, and Arron for sharing Betty with us!! My heart is with yours as we continue to light the way for others in her memory!

  13. Pilar Torres December 9, 2019 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Oh, my dearest Betty. I was so sad when I heard the news today that you had flown away from this earth. Through my tears, I also smiled at all the beautiful memories I have of the many conversations we had over the years. It was an honor knowing an early childhood advocate of your stature and influence; it was an even greater privilege being the benefactor of your kindness, wisdom, and friendship. Every time we met or talked I felt uplifted by your encouragement, inspired by your brilliant tweaks to my ideas, and wrapped in the warmth that infused everything that you touched. You are one of those very rare beings that are egoless and passionately believes in the goodness of people and the power of love. In 2018 you invited me and my friend and colleague Erica Serrano to stay in your gorgeous home in Cambridge during the Zaentz-HGSE Early Childhood Challenge. You and Art were so much more than our hosts: you fed us, coached us and helped us polish our pitch. You stood in the audience glowing with pride when we were announced as the winners and then took us out to dinner to celebrate with our friends and colleagues. How can I ever repay you for all that? I hope I can by contributing a tiny grain of sand to your majestic legacy and continuing the work of ensuring that early childhood is understood as an investment in social justice. The last time I hugged you I thought I could feel your wings. I wish I had known it was the last time I would see you, and that you would be taking flight so soon. Feliz viaje y gracias. Gracias por todo mi querida amiga. Art and Kori, my thoughts and prayers are with you. Thank you for sharing Betty with all of us.

  14. Dr. Calvin Moore, Jr. December 10, 2019 at 3:51 am - Reply

    I met this wonderful woman while serving on the Board of NAFCC with her. What a wonderful champion for Family Child Care Providers! She will never be forgotten! Rest well Betty!

  15. Rosina Claudia Scialdo Krecek December 10, 2019 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Fifty-two years ago, I met Betty when we became classmates at Nova High School, and subsequently became friends. I will never forget how Betty and her family embraced me with kindness, generosity and understanding during a difficult time in my life.

    One of the stories I remember vividly was talking with Betty about religion. I had been raised Catholic, and Nova was my first school experience of exposure with classmates of other religious beliefs. With Betty I was able to explore questions related to different faiths. As always, she brought clarity to the possibilities of other devotions, which was a first for me and left a life-long understanding.

    Subsequently, my career took me internationally, and only recently returned to the US. It was then that I became aware of Betty’s website “A Wealth of Words” and was deeply moved by the goal of “ensuring that every child begins school with a wealth of words”. Betty’s message of reaching out “for all to support young children along with their families, teachers and communities” has touched me deeply.

    Thank you, Betty, for your selflessness, kindness, and being you.

    I send condolences to Art, the children and other members and friends of Betty’s family.

    Sincerely and lovingly.

    Rosina Claudia Scialdo Krecek

  16. Andrew Davis December 10, 2019 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    I’m so sorry to hear about Betty’s passing. I’m thankful for the time I got to spend with her, for her many hours of counsel and for her influence on my outlook on the importance of early learning experiences, particularly for vulnerable populations. My thoughts and prayers are with Kori and the family. Rest peacefully, Betty.

  17. Richard A Harriman December 10, 2019 at 12:31 pm - Reply

    It was an honor and a pleasure to serve under Betty’s leadership at the Cambridge Community Foundation. She had a deep love for this city and all of our citizens, and no surprise, particularly children.

    In trying to assist those rich in spirit but not in resources and wanting to build a better city for the next generation one could not have a better partner than Betty.

    In speaking to your everlasting spirit, the world has been made greatly more compassionate with your presence and you will be deeply missed.

  18. Linda Gillespie December 11, 2019 at 6:41 am - Reply

    I can’t say when I officially met Betty. I knew of her work long before I had the chance to work with her. That chance came when a long tome friend and colleague Emily Fenichel died suddenly. Betty was in the process of writing a book for ZERO TO THREE that Emily was editing and in redistributing Emily’s work, that task was assigned to me. That was the beginning of a long and treasured relationship with one of the most generous and delightful person I’ve ever known! That was in 2006 when I was living in DC.

    In 2015, I moved to the Berkshires in MA and called Betty to say, “hey, I live here now, how can I get involved?”She said, “you must come to this meeting on children’s social emotional development! You can stay at my house afterwards!” I tried to sign up for the meeting, but it was by invitation only. I called Betty and said, “I can’t sign up, I have to be invited!” She said, “consider yourself invited! Show up!” That might be Betty’s mantra, SHOW UP, DO GOOD!

    Over the last few years I’ve gotten to know most of Betty’s family as they have a house in the Berkshires and whenever they were traveling here I’d get a text saying, “want to meet for dinner?” I’ve had the privilege of spending many hours with Art and Betty at both their Sandisfield and Cambridge homes. John and Art became instant friends which only further fueled our relationship. So many memories, paddling boarding on the lake, making maple syrup, going to Tanglewood for concerts, many, many dinners together. I will so miss her presence in my life and I’m so glad my relationship with the family will continue!

    Art, Kori, Brenan, and Arran, my heart goes out to each of you, I can’t imagine how much you will miss your beloved Betty! And yet she has built such a strong and loving family so I know you will care for each other in all the ways she cared for you! Art, I will see you will soon-and I hope to see Kori and Arran too! Brenan, although we haven’t met, I have shared all Jakey’s triumphs as I became a grandma a year or so after Betty. So I know you through her! To all of you I send my love and heartfelt condolences. All my love, Linda

  19. Matthew Melmed December 11, 2019 at 10:31 am - Reply

    Betty, your passing is a loss not only for your family but for all humanity; especially for the children whose well-being you made your mission in life.

    I met Betty through her mother, Mickey Mailman Segal, who served on the Board of ZERO TO THREE when I became Executive Director 25 years ago. Betty personified all that Mickey exuded: intelligence, inquisitiveness, passion, persistence, playfulness, joy and commitment.

    Whenever I saw Betty, whether at our annual conference or by a chance meeting, she always had some new information to share and an “ask” to be made. She was never satisfied with what is. She was always focused on what could be. She was an advocate in the best sense of the word; a true champion for babies.

    Betty’s spirit lives on in her daughter Kori who continues the “family business” of championing children.

    If there is a heaven, I am sure that Betty is sitting right next to Mickey and T. Berry, cheering us on as we collectively advance the Jewish mandate of Tikkun Olam: to repair the world.

    Betty you will be missed. And your legacy continues to inspire us. With heartbreak and loss. Matthew

  20. Lauren Hogan December 13, 2019 at 6:43 am - Reply

    As I sat down to write about how deeply Betty mattered in the world (and to so many of us), I thought maybe her own words would provide some inspiration. So I grabbed “Talk to Me, Baby!” off my shelf, and opened to a random page – and sure enough, here are her words reminding us that “all of the children in the community are all of the children of the community, and that every child matters.” Betty believed this with her whole heart – and she did more than believe. She acted upon that belief, in all the ways she could, and she expected the rest of us to act on it too. Betty was a relentless learner and teacher, and unendingly, unfailingly generous, certainly as a funder but even more as a person who literally opened the doors of her home and figuratively opened the doors of her wonderful mind to share her time, knowledge, connections, interest, enthusiasm, and laughter. I know I join so many others in sending all of our love to Kori and Betty’s whole family, and in saying that we will miss Betty terribly, and will try each day to carry forward her spirit of generosity, and honor her passion, commitment, and respect for all our children and families. With love, and the deepest appreciation for having had the opportunity to be part of a world that had Betty in it – Lauren

  21. Patti Lieberman December 13, 2019 at 12:41 pm - Reply

    Betty was my brilliant older sister. She was kind, caring, and generous to a fault. She always put the needs of others before her own, even worrying if she got a heart, would that mean that someone else, someone younger, would not. We spent a lot of time together in her final months. I wanted so much to help her through the transplant process as she had helped me. in the end, I was grateful to be with her in those final days. If I couldn’t help her with a transplant, at least I could try to ease her mind. So many times in my life she had been there to soothe my fears, to encourage me, to boost my fragile ego, often giving me credit for saying something insightful that I had no memory of saying. To do a crossword puzzle with Betty meant that she would give me the clues so that I could solve the puzzle. She gave freely of her time, her wisdom and her money, and never asked for anything for herself in return.

    Betty was uniquely “good.” She found the strength and goodness in friends, family members, and even brief acquaintances. To Betty, there was always a silver lining; and always. with a little effort, there could be a solution. She didn’t want us to worry about her, but rather, with a sense of urgency, worry about what we could do or would do going forward. Even in her final weeks, as she knew she was saying goodbye, she made each of us promise to keep trying to make the world better. That was the legacy she wanted.

    I will miss her – but I will always try to live up to her ideals – Patti

  22. Jean Ciborowski Fahey December 15, 2019 at 7:46 am - Reply

    Betty was my early childhood champion. She endorsed my book “Make Time for Reading” and always had time to communicate and celebrate with me. I was always left feeling better about the world for children, after being with Betty. How very sad it is to lose her. But I will always, always remember her impact of my life.

  23. Marta T. Rosa December 15, 2019 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    My deepest condolences to Art and the family. May the wonderful memories you cherish bring you comfort today and always. Im so very sad that I’ll never again share stories and strategize with My friend and colleague Betty. I met Betty many years ago while advocating for improved services for children and families both in Mass and the country. She always had an idea, a brilliant suggestion, a kind word and good advice. She was always willing to open doors. She will be greatly missed and never forgotten! I am honored that I knew her, proud to have worked with her and feel privileged to have shared many stories of our children, our worries and triumphs! Rest In Peace my friend. You are lived and cherished. I know you are already rearranging heaven. 🙏🏻🙏🏻

  24. Kate Murphy December 17, 2019 at 11:28 am - Reply

    I am so sad to hear of Betty’s passing. I knew her through our shared work on countless political campaigns and advocacy efforts. She was such a role model for me. She unfailingly offered a kind word about balancing work inside and outside of the home. She was always open to helping if she could. She would edit a newsletter, come to an event, or graciously open her home for a worthy cause. She had a knack for coming up with the right answer at the right time. I have a vivid memory of her warm greeting the last time I saw her. We were in a campaign headquarters together – I don’t remember which one because there had been so many, but I do Remember the light in her eyes and her smile as she reached out to embrace me. She will be missed. My deep condolences to Art and all of her family and friends.

  25. Rosemarie Johnson December 17, 2019 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    I had the pleasure of working with Betty while a member of the Cambridge Kids’ Council and the Cambridge Community Foundation board of directors. Her love for children, and for the city she called home, was inspiring. Betty was curious, warm and passionate! She will be sorely missed and the world is a better place because she graced it with her remarkable spirit. My deepest condolences to her entire family.

  26. Elizabeth Baldwin January 1, 2020 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I am so sorry for your loss. Betty radiated love and light – she was such a kind and generous person. She treated me like a daughter, always curious about my life and goings on and even bought me a ticket to a rally to see President Obama. I love her so much and I am sending all of you love and light. I so incredibly sorry for your loss – she’s such a phenomenal person and made such an impact on the world around her.

  27. Anne Freedman Fischer October 19, 2020 at 4:15 pm - Reply

    I grew up with Betty in Hollywood and am so sorry to learn of her passing way too early. She had a big ❤️ always. May she Rest In Peace. Anne

  28. kathy triebwasser October 19, 2020 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    I was also a classmate of Betty’s at Nova High School. What an a life she had, wish I had share more of it. Beautiful tribute to an amazing woman who made such a difference in so many people’s lives. I am touched by her spirit as I feel a deep sense of connection for who she was. I love the Irish blessing she shared. May she rest in peace, and all those who grieve carry her light always.

  29. James Caristi October 21, 2020 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    Betty was one of the very few truly good people I have ever met. She was kind and loving with everyone she encountered. She was a good friend in high school, and I was blessed to have had a few contacts with her later in life, including once when my wife and I visited her and Art in Cambridge, and once when I was able to join her family for a weekend after a professional conference. She was a model for selfless giving in a world where selfishness seems to be a virtue. Her memory and her life still shine brightly in my mind, and the minds and souls of countless others whose lives she touched.

  30. Susan Draluck October 24, 2020 at 1:40 am - Reply

    I didn’t know Betty very well at Nova High School, but I admired her reputation for being so intelligent. I am so glad to have seen her years later at a Nova High School reunion.

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