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Saturday, July 15, 2023
11:00am - 12:00 pm (Eastern time)
Bette Jeanne (Bee Jay) Swartz Severtson Ahrens Butterfield lived a long life–95 ½ years, to be exact. She was born in Aurora, Illinois on 11/23/1927 and she passed away peacefully on June 30, 2023. Her husbands, Albert Severtson, Henry Ahrens, and Earl Butterfield preceded her in death as did her father, mother, brother and sister.
She moved to Orlando in 1952 with her husband, Al. Bee Jay and Al had four children – Jan, Jill, Joy, and Jon. She was an elementary school teacher, spending most of her career at Blanker Elementary School teaching third graders about many things, but especially about dinosaurs and seashells! Many of her former students still talk about those lessons.
Bee Jay was a very active woman. In addition to being a wife and mother, she was a member of First United Methodist Church of Orlando, Daughters of the American Revolution, Orange County Retired Teachers, and Alpha Delta Kappa, an educator’s sorority. In fact, she was a founding member of that group. She did volunteer work at Sunland Hospital and Edgewood Boy’s Ranch. Bowling was a sport she loved, and she was in numerous leagues throughout the Orlando area.
After Al died in 1971, Bee Jay was fortunate to have an old family friend lend emotional support as he, too, had lost his spouse. They decided he would sell his Illinois home, move to Florida, and help Bee Jay live her best life. So Hank Ahrens and Bee Jay were married; but only for a few years as Hank died in 1975.
Bee Jay continued working and raising her children. While on a short vacation to Cherokee Sound, Abaco, Bahamas, she fell in love with the settlement and the people there. With her friends, she was able to purchase a home there. Once she retired from teaching she spent up to six months every year on Cherokee, walking the beach, catching fish, finding shells, just doing basically what she had always dreamed of doing.
In fact, she was in the Bahamas when a very important phone call came. The remains of her brother, Bud, who was MIA in World War II, had been discovered. So many questions were answered and now she knew her brother was in heaven with her mom, dad, and sister. Bud belonged to a group called the Jolly Rogers, a group who still has reunions. Mom went to a reunion for the group and met her third husband, Earl Butterfield. A year later, Earl asked mom to marry him and they began their lives together, living six months in Syracuse, NY and six months in Orlando. They were married for over ten years. Earl died at the age of 102.
Bee Jay lived for the last six years of her life with her daughter, Jill. She was still traveling to Sanibel Island and to the North Carolina mountains with family. She leaves behind her children, Jan/Charles Stewart, Jill Hopkins, Joy Satta, and Jon/Kathy Severtson. Her 9 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren, and 1 great great grandchild will hear stories about her for many years to come. Her legacy will live on in all of the happy memories she and her family shared.