Betty Townshend was known well by many of the students and staff who have called W.T. Townshend Public School in Kitchener home since it opened in 2003. Betty’s late husband was the namesake of the school, William Townshend, who passed away in 2002. From volunteering for the Strong Start program to supporting family math nights to speaking at Grade 6 graduation ceremonies – she loved supporting the students, and truly enjoyed their performances. She never missed an assembly.

Betty passed away on Tuesday, October 19, 2021, at the age of 93 years.

In the months before she passed, the WTT family, as they are known, came together to show their appreciation and gratitude for all that Betty brought to the school community during the nearly two decades she spent there.

Sandra Himann, principal at WTT, explained that while Betty was unable to come into the school in recent years due to the pandemic, she still maintained her connection to the staff and students.

Betty “…has always been involved in the school,” said Himann. A mainstay at WTT since before it opened, Betty attended the groundbreaking ceremony in her own pair of steel-toed boots.

Despite the pandemic, Betty was determined to carry on her tradition of speaking to the graduating Grade 6 class. They made it happen, with Betty speaking to the students virtually as part of their graduation celebrations.

Earlier this year, when Betty’s health took a turn for the worse, her granddaughter Karen McIntyre, a kindergarten teacher at WTT, shared the sad news with her colleagues. Knowing they would not be able to visit her in person, the staff and students worked together to create messages and cards for Betty, so she would know just how much she meant to them.

The hope was to “…give her something special that would brighten her day,” said Himann.

A card shows an image of students laying on tarmac in the shape of a heart along with the message "Sending Love from Room 6. Wishing you peace and courage to face the days ahead."

From handwritten messages, to original artworks – McIntyre explained that Betty received more than 400 cards in total. The kindergarten students even laid out on the tarmac, creating an image of a heart to be included along with their letter.

“The school is so important to her, I knew how nice it would make her feel,” said McIntrye. “Such a small thing…made her feel so happy, and so special and so important.”

One staff member even created a work of art based on the school’s motto, and the late William Townshend’s favourite saying: “Roots and Wings.”

“The two things we give our kids are roots and wings,” said McIntyre. “That was his big saying.”

For Betty, the school was always a place she felt connected to her late husband, McIntryre explained. Opening just after his passing, her involvement in the school, and in preserving his legacy, was a way for Betty to continue to feel close to her husband of 51 years.

The final gesture from the WTT family was not out of character, but rather, was a continuation of the extraordinarily close relationship they had with Betty – known by many as Grandma T.

“I thank them for always making her feel welcome,” said McIntyre. “There aren’t even words.”