Obituary of Elizabeth Virginia Flanagan
Elizabeth “Betty” Flanagan: Her Joyful Spirit Made the World a Happier Place
Elizabeth Virginia “Betty” Flanagan passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, likely from cardiac arrest, on May 30, 2020, in her home in Gulfport, Florida. She was predeceased by her husband and love of her life, Jim Flanagan (1980), and her longtime companion, Jack Walker (2012). She is survived by her son Mike Flanagan and daughter Kathy Smith, and their spouses, Jennie Flanagan and Scott Smith; six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; and many friends.
Born in Baltimore on November 7, 1931, the daughter of Henry and Ella (nee Finn) Kleinhenn, the children of German and Irish immigrants, she lost her hearing from whooping cough at age 3 but became an expert lip reader and as a teenager learned to speak, an amazing feat for a person completely deaf. Smart, strong, determined, athletic, charming, thoughtful and funny, Betty’s beautiful smile and vibrant spirit brightened every room she entered and made the world a happier place for everyone she touched.
Pulled out of high school in 11th grade to work in a sewing factory after WWII, she eventually worked for many years as a housekeeper. A child of the Great Depression, she and Jim, who suffered a major heart attack in the early 1960s, had limited income but provided a good, loving and happy life for Mike and Kathy in their longtime home in Catonsville, Md., teaching them the value of education, the importance of always working with pride to do your best, financial responsibility, and being respectful and tolerant of people from all backgrounds.
Widowed in 1980, Betty moved in 1984 to Gulfport, the friendly and artsy waterfront village she loved for nearly 40 years, where with great joy she doted on her newest grandson, Michael, and loved taking him on walks in the neighborhood or to the beach and making friends with local merchants and neighbors, while often traveling to Baltimore to spend time with Kathy, Scott and their three sons whom she loved so much, Austin, Zach and Travis. About 15 years after her dear Jim passed away, she became close with Jack Walker, deaf by birth, who moved into the back apartment of her home. They loved each other dearly, went on frequent road trips and took great care of each other. Jack, who called her the Queen of Gulfport, taught her a new way to speak, American Sign Language, and introduced her to the deaf community, which led to many new and lasting friendships, many made while playing bingo, cards and enjoying each other’s company.
Family and friends always meant the world to Betty, and in recent years she was thrilled to know and love her youngest great-grandchildren, Grace Elizabeth Flanagan and McKenzie Elizabeth Smith. She was a very proud great grandma, grandma and mom. If you were in her family, or if you were her friend, or if she got to know you at her local Walmart or Publix, or her doctor’s office or hair salon, you were a very lucky person. Everyone who knew Betty loved her, and her love of life and bright spirit remain strong with those who knew and loved her. There is no doubt her family and friends will keep her love, positive energy and joyful spirit alive and well in their hearts and souls, always and forever more.
A private memorial service, with face coverings and social distancing because of the coronavirus pandemic, will be held, to be followed at a date in the future, when the timing is right, to more fully celebrate her extraordinary life and memory. In lieu of flowers, Betty would appreciate donations of any amount to the local chapter of Voices of Hope for Aphasia, a wonderful non-profit to which Kathy and Scott belong. The local chapter supports Tampa Bay area people who have had a stroke or other brain injury who now live with aphasia, a speaking disorder. Betty was so thankful to Voices of Hope for connecting Kathy and Scott to a support group of great people who have become close friends. To make a donation, visit their website at http://www.vohaphasia.org/.