REYNOLDS, Elizabeth Clifford, Wellesley, MA, 84, died at Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln, Mass., on July 19, 2021, from COPD. In her passing the world lost a people-loving fireball who used her disarming smile, pointed humor, and penetrating questions to focus on what matters most and make all things discussible. She was idealistic and resolute in her view of how folks should treat one another. When she walked onto a lacrosse field, hooked a player by the facemask, and scolded him for rough play, no one ― not even the referee ― dared stop her. When an ER doctor asked, "any allergies," she replied, "the Yankees." This answer became part of her medical record and drew grins from doctors and nurses for many years to come. When a newsletter editor inquired "what is your favorite hobby," her eyes flashed as she quipped, "people." Three generations keenly mourn her departure.
Betsy Clifford was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 26, 1937, to Jeanette Hume and Nathaniel Stone Clifford. After attending Fox Hollow School and the Potomac School, she became a medical transcriptionist in Boston, fondly remembered for dashing about the city delivering records with her trademark sunny wit. One day in an elevator at the Deaconess Hospital, she met a thoughtful and handsome surgeon, Charles Thomas Reynolds. They married in 1958, had 4 children, and settled in Westwood, Mass., where they lived for 4 decades. Betsy served on the Westwood Conservation Commission and cultivated a reputation of care for the community. In the 1970s as a member of Boston's Vincent Club, Betsy helped raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital for research on women's health, and she regularly performed in the Vincent's annual musical show. She was a fond associate of the Dedham Exchange in Dedham, Mass., and relished its community of strong women and clever artisans. She was a spirited tenor in the choir of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Dedham and more recently in Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church in Wellesley.
She will be remembered as a loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, and loyal friend. She is preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, by a son, John Henry Clifford (1962-1976), and by a daughter-in-law, Kerry Polk (1956-2017). She is survived by her children Christopher Hume Reynolds of Wayland, Mass., Laura "Yaya" Stone Reynolds of Cranford, New Jersey, and Jenny Orme Reynolds of Austin, Texas; grandsons Hiram Clifford Reynolds of Washington, D.C., and Henry Truman Reynolds of Boston, Mass.; brother Shaw Sprague and sisters Jeanette (Sprague) Hagen and Julie Hume Sprague of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; and many adoring nieces and nephews who became fellow pranksters.
Her ashes shall be spread in Cape Elizabeth, where the rugged seacoast appealed to her sturdy outlook. She had a powerful connection with the ocean and took pride in collecting sand dollars. To receive a carefully selected sand dollar as a gift from her trove was a distinct honor. Her keychain featured both a St. Christopher medallion and a screwdriver, and she nurtured spiritual and practical perspectives with ease. Despite being born during the Great Depression, losing her father to World War II, and losing a son to an accident, she fueled her life with resilience, vim, and optimism. Her greatest gift was making this recipe contagious.
There are apocryphal stories of Betsy's penchant for music and brushes with the law. These include inviting the police to attend a backyard chemistry experiment that turned into an illicit firework show (happened), singing to an officer to get out of a ticket (happened more than once), and sparking new friendships by humming in the grocery store (happened). After Betsy and her teenage friends were caught painting a stranger's house (happened), some say she explained to a judge that they just didn't like the color of the house (never happened). She had a knack for puckish humor, getting folks together, and helping them feel good.
A memorial service featuring remarkable music will be held on Saturday, November 12, at 1 o'clock (12:40 prelude) at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 79 Denton Rd., Wellesley, Mass., with reception to follow in the Parish Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations to St. Andrew's Church.