Betty Lou (Rice) White of Tioga, LA died peacefully on June 12, 2022, at the Brookdale Senior Living Community in Alexandria, LA at the age of 86, following the death of her husband Luvell “Lou” White on April 6, 2020 at the age of 89. She was born in Donna, TX on February 18, 1936, to Chester and Geneva Mae (Acree) Rice.
Betty was the middle of five children, and she fondly recalled their time playing together along the banks of the Calcasieu River in Kinder, LA, where her dad owned and operated a small roadside gas station and repair shop. She was amazed at his mechanical acumen and often spoke of the rotating stand he built for the family Christmas tree. In her waning days, the decorated evergreen she kept in her Brookdale apartment year round reminded her of these happy times.
As a teenager, Betty played the French horn in the Kinder High School band and joined the basketball team as a forward. While playing in a Lady Yellowjacket game during her junior year, she caught the eye of a young Air Force sergeant, Luvell White, who had come to see his brother, Betty’s classmate, play in the men’s game that followed. They had a brief courtship and married the following August. Betty and Luvell moved to Lake Charles, LA and quickly found themselves with three children in as many years. During this busy period Betty somehow also managed to complete her GED.
Their early years together were financially difficult, and Luvell would later gratefully recount how she had lovingly cared for their young family, doing her best to cook, wash, and clean even though their small, drafty house often lacked hot water or any of the modern appliances we take for granted today. Betty was a dedicated wife, mother, and homemaker at a time when this was a difficult job indeed.
Luvell’s military career took the family to England, Germany, and California before they ultimately retired in Alexandria, LA. With Betty’s support at home, Luvell reached the highest enlisted grade, Chief Master Sergeant (E-9), but he often joked that Betty must be an E-10 because, regardless of how many promotions he received, she always out ranked him in the household hierarchy.
Betty was a gifted artist and energetically threw her creative talents into all manner of crafts, including cake decoration, painting, ceramics, macrame, floral arrangements, and sewing. For many years, she personally made nearly all the clothing she and her three daughters wore. Whenever there was a special occasion or family trip, you could count on Betty to stay up most of the night, putting the final touches on new garments for the entire family. She made all of her daughters’ wedding gowns and self-catered their receptions. Hospitality was her love language, and she spent countless hours making sure that her family and guests had three healthy meals a day. Despite her busy schedule, she somehow also managed to make individual time for each of her (ultimately) five children, whether it was helping to memorize vocabulary lists or engaging in deep, philosophical discussions. When her kids were grown, she diligently researched each of their careers so she could have intelligent conversations with them and better understand their adult lives. She was a talented, hard-working, and dedicated mother.
Betty was a devout Christian and felt it was important to set a good example for all the young people in her life. She valued the relationships she made with junior high girls over the years she taught Sunday school at Alpine Baptist Church. She sang alto in the church choir, served as secretary of the church ladies’ group, and became a trustee of The Baptist Message, a periodical published by the Louisiana Baptist Convention. She was particularly proud when, in 2007, she completed her bachelor's degree in Graphic Design from Louisiana College at the age of 71, underscoring the value she placed on education.
Betty’s memory and cognitive abilities eventually began to decline, leading to a long goodbye for her family. During these years, Luvell lovingly took on more and more responsibility, learning to cook, do housework, and provide for her personal hygiene. He insisted that it was his duty and honor to care for her, considering all that she had done for him and the family over the years. After developing cancer, he ultimately relented and accepted help from the kind staff at Brookdale, where they spent their final days together. The family would like to thank them for the excellent care she received there.
Dementia has a way of peeling away facade and inhibitions to reveal a person’s true inner character. Some people can become agitated or angry, but Betty was shown to be a cheerful and gentle soul despite her growing disabilities - ready to greet you with a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face to the very end. But those who met her through the years already knew what a sweet, lovely lady she truly was.
Betty was predeceased by her husband of 66 years, Luvell White; both her parents; her sister Geraldine (Rice) Bray of Pearl, MS; their son, Dane White of Murfreesboro TN; their daughter, Leavon (White) Jamison, her husband Johnny, and her daughter Heather of Florence, MS; and their son-in-law Marty Thiels of Boyce, LA. She is survived by their three remaining children: Cynthia (White) Pinder and her husband Dennis of Logansport, LA; Laurie Thiels and her partner Matthew Layssard of Boyce, LA; and Todd White and his wife Andrea (Carley) White of Southbury, CT; as well as Dane’s widow, Cindy (Stockdale) White of Murfreesboro, TN; 11 grandchildren: Daniel Marler, Trenton Marler, Stephanie (Marler) Amox, Cory Jamison, Megan (Jamison) Jordan, Stacey (Carley) Gannaway, John Carley, Daniel Thiels, Christina (Thiels) Martin, Nathan White, and Brian White; and 13 great-grandchildren. Also surviving Betty is her brother R. Theodore “Teddy” Rice of Discovery Bay, CA; sister N. Jeanne Rice of Lafayette, LA; and sister Ginger (Rice) Eubanks of Newhall, CA.
Due to COVID-19 protocols at the time, the family was unable to host a memorial service to honor Luvell’s passing. Guests are now invited to join the family for Visitation beginning at 9 am on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at Gallagher Funeral Home in Ball, LA, followed at 10 am by a Funeral Service to celebrate the lives of both Betty and Luvell. Her body will be interred beside her husband at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made in her honor to the Dementia Society of America at www.DementiaSociety.org.