Obituary: Betty Oliphant Dec. 4, 1930 – April 6, 2021

BETTY OLIPHANT Dec. 4, 1930 – April 6, 2021

Betty Oliphant, 90, passed away on April 6, 2021 in Portland, Oregon after having struggled for many months with the aftereffects of contracting COVID.

She was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Whitney Hall Efferson and Gladys Efferson on December 4, 1930.

The last surviving member of the six Efferson children, Betty is survived by her husband of 70 years, Thomas Oliphant; daughters Cathy Kernodle (and husband Gary Kernodle) of Portland, Oregon and San Antonio, Texas; Carol Salesky of Lubbock, Texas; and Julie Oliphant of Santa Rosa, New Mexico; as well as grandchildren Cat Zalanka (and husband Michael Zalanka) of Camas, Washington; T.J. Fly ( and wife Meredith Fly) of McLean, Texas; Lara Fly of Lubbock, Texas; and delightful great grandchildren Juniper Lark Zalanka, Winifred Beatrice Zalanka and Nolan Thomas Fly.

Betty met and married her husband Thomas while they were both attending Louisiana State University, and she supported Thomas through his earning his masters and Ph.D. in physics. Betty had a love for music and the arts and eventually earned a BA in music from LSU. Although she was not a musical performer, she was supportive and encouraging of all her children’s love of music and art, from opera to piano to ballet and theater.

Betty and Thomas lived for over 60 years in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Because of the unique nature of  Los Alamos where almost everybody was from somewhere else, Betty bonded with friends who became as close as family. They began calling themselves “bluebirds,” kiddingly at first , but later the name came to represent  the loyalty, support and love the group had for one another over the years through good times and bad. The Bluebirds also had a talent for having fun together (often raucously so), and there were many parties and celebrations, including an annual back to school celebration party that they continued to have long after all their children were grown and out of school.

Betty was an excellent seamstress who often made costumes and tutus for her daughters. After her daughters were grown, she turned her sewing talents to quilting and became a quilter extraordinaire, earning many ribbons and awards for her beautiful quilts. She was particularly known for her intricate miniature quilts. She joked that people often asked her if she sold her quilts and she replied, No, I have daughters. Betty also had a passion for collecting and decorating with antiques and was known for her legendary seasonal decorating, especially for Christmas and Halloween, her two favorite holidays. For many years she hosted a Christmas Eve gumbo party that even Santa couldn’t resist dropping in on now and then.

Betty adored her three grandchildren and always had “Camp Grandma” ready for summer and holiday visits. Whether it was visiting Bandelier or just playing video games all day and being waited on by Grandma Betty hand and foot, they were always well entertained and well fed. Grandkids and other family and friends alike were often treated to her famous rum cakes, which she made so often that she claimed she could almost make them in her sleep.

While the cruelties of Alzheimer’s took a severe toll on Betty’s quality of life in her last years, it could not dampen her bravery and spirit. Almost to the end, she always smiled and enjoyed hearing and seeing her children and grandchildren, as well as all the “grand kitties,” on FaceTime calls (she remained a devoted cat lover to the end). Those of us who have been saying the long goodbye to Betty these last years will always remember how important family was to her and how they were her joy until the end. Betty’s indomitable spirit of love and joy will always stay with us.

Betty Oliphant Dec. 4, 1930 – April 6, 2021