Betty Wilcox, a longtime Yellowknife teacher, has passed away on Prince Edward Island at the age of 72.
Betty had been trying to recover from a heart attack in early May, family members wrote in an obituary, when she passed away on July 7 at Charlottetown’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
She taught in Yellowknife for 20 years, arriving in the city in 1991 with her husband, John, and remaining at Sir John Franklin High School until early 2010.
“The most important thing was her students,” John told Cabin Radio as he remembered Betty’s time in Yellowknife.
“She loved when she’d make a little breakthrough with somebody. She cared a lot about her students. She was probably the most hard-working person I’ve ever met.”
Born in the Netherlands in 1950, Betty had already been married to John for 20 years when the pair moved north to find work.
Fascinated by the visual arts, Betty spent time outside the classroom designing murals for buildings or erecting fibreglass ravens, as well as arranging or participating in talent shows and art shows.
She became a leader at her school in fine arts and fell in love with the diversity of Yellowknife’s population, John said.
“She never looked back,” he recalled.
“An environment that – at least to begin with – seemed less than hospitable, we came to love.”
Betty’s time in Yellowknife ended after an incident while teaching.
In her obituary, her family wrote that “a confrontation with some unruly students resulted in her being physically slapped and, consequently, her mental health started to deteriorate.”
She and John moved to Prince Edward Island in 2010.
“She struggled with things a lot after that,” said John, “and she ended up with major depression. She wasn’t able to continue working.”
But he said the trauma didn’t diminish her broader affection for Yellowknife, the city.
“She was one of the nicest and most thoughtful people you could ever ask to meet,” John wrote in a tribute. “She will be missed.”
Betty is survived by husband John, sister Maryke, brother John, and many further relatives and friends.