Lawrence believes in homemade
By Sandy Bond
Deftly doing counted cross stitch with the illumination of a high intensity lamp, Betty Lawrence is sitting in the same leather-seated Morris chair where her dad pulled on his big ol’ work boots and prepared to check calves. The low of Black Angus cattle outside her rural Mobridge home are reminiscent of life on the family homestead in Dupree.
“Adolph’s window,” a stained glass window saved from a Minnesota church by a family friend has a special place in the loft of the log house.
The eldest child of Jackie and Leonard Birkeland, Betty and her four brothers and sisters were born on the plains. After marriage, her parents were given half of the little house owned by her grandparents.
“Such a teeny, tiny little house,” she said, “There was their bedroom and the other room where we children slept on a foldout bed.”
Premature twins were born a few years after Betty and Neil, at a small rural hospital without even an incubator.
“They survived,” she said, “because Mom was such a great nurturer of baby calves and baby children.”
The family raised Black Angus, horses and sheep, until her dad inadvertently backed over one of the bottle lambs.
“We all were so sad, and that was the end of sheep of the farm,” said Betty.
The children gathered corncobs, and even cow chips to augment coal to feed the big old range, which she said made the best bread.
Betty graduated from Dupree High in 1955.
“There were three career choices back then, teacher, secretary, and nurse,” she said, “and I choose nursing.” She attended South Dakota State University at Vermillion.
Dupree produced three physicians with Ron Lawrence and Ben Henderson being two who practiced at the Lowe Hospital in Mobridge. Ron was only son of Amida and Roy Lawrence, the local mail carrier. After graduating from Dupree High School he served as an Air Force pilot stationed in California. Betty received her BSN in 1959, and they married the same year. She was employed as a registered nurse in Riverside.
“Unbelievably, there was a surplus of nurses after WWII, so I was employed part-time as a nursing school instructor during the day and librarian at night,” she said.
It helped to put Ron through pre-med studies at USD. He did his internship and residency as a surgeon at Danville, in Pennsylvania. Betty was raising their children while Ron was attending Gisinger Medical Center. Diana was born in 1962, Alan in 1963, Tim in 1965, and Tricia in 1966. Hearing they needed a physician and surgeon at the Lowe Hospital, the family returned to South Dakota and remained for the next 17 years. Earning his private pilot’s license, Ron often flew to Gettysburg and Hoven to conduct surgery.
“In hindsight,” she said, “I know Ron was beginning to display erratic behavior caused by the slow growth of a brain tumor, when he demanded we move to Eufaula, Ala.”
Ron’s continuing unusual behavior put a unbearable strain on their marriage, she said, until she felt no other choice but to opt for a divorce in 1997; the family returning to Mobridge. Ron eventually was unable to practice medicine or conduct surgery as the tumor grew and he died in 2001.
Betty is intensely proud of her children who display traits from both sides of the family. Diana Ryan and her husband Roger and their three children live in Sioux Falls where she is an assistant states attorney and he is the primary care-giver. Alan is a surgeon in Watertown where he and wife Aurie are raising their four children. Tim just retired as a Lt. Col. in the Air Force and his wife, Linnaea, is a surgical nurse. They are raising two children. Tricia is specializing in oncology as a breast surgeon at San Antonio and she and Jon are raising three children.
“I always cooked a lot while the children were attending Mobridge Schools,” Betty said. “I was happy to make warm nutritious meals for them when they came home from school for lunch. I admit I was a holdout against the formation of the hot lunch program at the Mobridge Schools.”
Betty said she absolutely loves going to the Mobridge Senior Citizens for a good lunch with the added benefit of seeing all her good friends.
She is still baking bread because store-bought bread is, “horrid.”
“I’m not as ambitious as my good friend, Mary Ann White, who bakes all her own bread at the age of 90,” she said.
Their friendship bonded upon the love of travel, winging from coast to coast several times over. In a few weeks Betty will accompany Tricia and her newest grandchild as a babysitter while Tricia attends a conference in San Antonio, before winging off with Tricia’s family to London for the holidays.
Very musical, she sings soprano in the UCC choir, where she is an assistant deacon. Learning to play piano from an elderly lady as a child in Dupree on a pump organ, after accompanying many children at music and vocal contests, she plays for her own enjoyment. She is proudly a non-practicing member of the quilting club.
BETTY LAWRENCE’S RECIPES
Green Beans in Sour Cream Dressing
4 cans Blue Lake green beans (drained)
1 onion (thinly sliced)
1 can water chestnuts (drained and sliced)
1 Tbsp. salad oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
salt and coarsely ground pepper (to taste)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
1/3 tsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. horseradish
1 tsp. lemon juice
Layer beans, onion, water chestnuts, salad oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in large bowl or square Tupperware. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer. Drain well. Mix remaining ingredients together and add to bean mixture. Mix well. Refrigerate at least 12 hours before serving.
4 cups potatoes (peeled and diced)
½ cup onion (finely chopped)
1 cup carrots (grated)
1 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley (dried)
4 chicken bouillon cubes
6 cups scalded milk
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup flour
In a large Dutch oven, combine potatoes, onion, carrots, salt, pepper, parsley, and bouillon cubes. Add enough water to just cover vegetables. Cook until tender (about 15 to 20 minutes). Do Not Drain! Scald milk by heating to 180 degrees or until tiny bubbles form around the edges of pan. Remove 1 ½ cups milk and add butter and flour to hot mil, stirring with wire whisk. Add remaining hot milk to vegetables, and then stir in thickened milk mixture. Stir until blended. Simmer for 15 minutes on low heat.
Santa Fe Pasta
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into thin strips)
Onion (cut into quarters)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 Tbsp. oil
green/red peppers (cut into strips)
½ tsp. salt
½ chili powder
½ tsp. pepper
1 10- oz. can evaporated milk (or evaporated skim milk)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Linguini noodles (cooked)
Brown chicken with garlic in oil. Add peppers and onions. Cook until tender. Add spices to chicken and peppers; stir to mix in. In a small bowl, add a little evaporated milk to cornstarch and mix. Pour the rest of the milk into the chicken and pepper. Add the cornstarch and milk to the pan with the chicken and peppers and cook over medium heat until sauce thickens. Serve over cooked pasta and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cilantro.
Le Sueur Vegetable Salad
1 can Le Sueur peas, drained
1 can shoe peg corn (drained)
1 can French cut green beans (drained)
1 cup celery (finely diced)
1 cup carrots (coarsely grated)
1 cup onion (finely chopped)
1 cup green pepper (finely chopped)
1 small jar chopped pimento (drained)
Celery, carrots, green pepper and onion may be chopped in blender. Mix all salad ingredients.
½ cup salad oil
¾ cup white vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. celery seed
1 Tbsp. water
Mix ingredients, and boil until sugar is well dissolved. Cool dressing. Pour dressing over vegetable mixture. Refrigerate. Will keep several weeks. Serves 10.