OLLI Remembers Bettye Dew

OLLI members lost a friend when Bettye Dew died unexpectedly while on vacation in Australia in January.  A passionate member of OLLI, Bettye was editor for Potpourri 2020, led many Creative Nonfiction courses, and contributed greatly to the OLLI newsletter. Her friends Ellen Boone and Karen Sterbenz have written remembrances of her.

When we lost Bettye Dew to such a tragic accident, we lost a lot. Bettye was a vibrant woman, full of life and wit—a very dry and delicious wit.

She led several terms of courses in Creative Non-Fiction. She always brought several examples of essays by established writers focusing on the topic she had assigned for the coming week. She always gave supportive and constructive feedback, making all of us better writers of non-fiction.

Bettye gave new life to our OLLI newsletter, on hiatus with the Covid-19 restrictions. The organization, the writers she recruited and the writing she did made the newsletter a valued publication.

To be able to count Bettye a friend meant you were rich indeed. We mourn the loss of her life, wish her family comfort and consolation, and treasure her energy, generosity and the many contributions she made to OLLI. ~ Karen Sterbenz


As a relative newcomer to OLLI, I didn’t have the privilege of getting to know Bettye until 2019 when a committee was formed to create Potpourri 2020 in commemoration and celebration of the 25 years of our organization’s existence. Bettye willingly took on the role of being the final editor for the 75 submissions to our publication. Bettye worked tirelessly and expertly to fine tune the final manuscript. I was honored to serve as her assistant as we combed through each page, discussing word placement and punctuation. But Bettye had also delved deeply into the contents. If an OLLI member had written about going fishing in a creek in the county where he lived 65 years ago, Bettye made sure that the name of the river that fed that tributary was spelled correctly and that the county received the proper designation! Her devotion to excellence ensured that Potpourri 2020 reflected positively on OLLI and all of us members. Her passing is surely our loss. ~ Ellen C. Boone


When I joined LLI approximately 7 years ago, I met Karen Sterbenz and Bettye Dew. Both of those ladies did a hell of a job connecting me to the organization and to volunteering. 

Karen was the facilitator for American Short Stories, and I met Bettye in a “straight forward” literature class in which we read and discussed the book chapter by chapter. Bettye in her sweet, southern voice said to me “We really need an offering of African American Literature here at LLI. And that was the hook. She and I facilitated classes on James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright.  Thereafter, Bettye would attend many African American Lit classes and generously share her literary expertise, her life experiences and her insights. Once Bettye went to visit family and friends in the South. She brought me back a pottery spoon rest, which I use at least once a day. When I see it, I smile and think of my friend and hope she is resting in peace or stirring up some expansive literary prose (or analysis) in heaven. RIP, Bettye, I’ll miss you!
~ Brenda Lambert 


The most memorable class I took at OLLI was the Jane Austen class with Bettye. She was clearly passionate about the author and had props for us to wear as we read from Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. We had so much fun delving into Regency England and the genius of Jane Austen. Everyone participated, (Bettye made sure of that!) and her enthusiasm was contagious. She will be missed, but I will think of her whenever I see a hyacinth (a memorable line from Northanger Abbey!). ~ Jeanne Short

If you would also like to share a remembrance of Bettye, please email us at osher@wustl.edu.