A Secret Grave 39: Betsy’s Past

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Over the next few days I did a little sleuthing about Betsy – who she was, where she came from, what her life and marriage were like, who her friends were, what made her tick. I learned she was forty-six years old, a Leo, and that she had grown up outside of Detroit. When I googled her a lot of stuff about her philanthropic work and businesses came up, photos of her at galas and board meetings, with students at her tutoring centers, the odd photo of her, Clark and Malcolm on vacation. I wanted a more personal story, the real dirt. Here’s what I found out:

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Skin

Betsy

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Elizabeth Jablonsky Shapiro went to a number of colleges and ended up at UT where she studied early childhood development. Her father, who’d owned a car dealership, died when she was very young. Her mother, a nutritionist, married two more times, moved to New Orleans where she got involved in some kind of shady business and was murdered. Betsy was eighteen at the time. Her life could have gone in many directions. She had no siblings, no aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, no money. Her last name was Johnson – changed from Jablonsky by a Lithuanian grandfather when he arrived in the United States. She decided to change it back and step into her Jewish heritage. At UT she became involved with Hillel and met all sorts of people; her life seemed to start over again, but there were rumors that she worked as an exotic dancer to help defray the costs of tuition. (The person who told me this, sniggered and said, “The girl can really dance; you go to a wedding or bar mitzvah with her and whew-wee she’s out there on the floor the whole time.”) I do remember her talking about pole dancing as a wonderful form of exercise when we were at mahjong.

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Dance

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She worked as a nanny and eventually landed a teaching job at a Jewish day school where she met Malcolm’s son Clark, then a very odd little eight-year-old boy who had rituals and obsessions no one but Betsy seemed to understand. A fascination with eyeglass frames, for instance. Or the fact that he had to walk backwards twice around a table before eating. Or that he couldn’t look directly at a person who was talking to him, but always down at their feet. His mother had died of leukemia three years before, when he was five, and Betsy felt they had a natural connection because both had lost their mothers at young ages. She was the one person whose eyes he could look into, the one person he clamored for when things spiraled out of control. Their closeness did not go unnoticed by Malcolm Shapiro, Clark’s dad. Poor man had no idea what to do with his very bright but off-putting son, and here was this beautiful young woman who had the boy laughing and engaged rather than shutting down and running to hide in the corner. Eventually father and teacher got together for a meal to discuss young Clark and one thing led to another and pretty soon they were romantically involved. Malcolm was forty-four at the time. He had hurt his back badly in a boating accident a few years before, and looked older than he was. Betsy, only twenty-eight, found him extremely attractive with his greying sideburns and noble face. He was brilliant and wealthy, a real estate lawyer who owned property all over Austin, an excellent catch. They married a year after they met, “a little quickly,” murmured people who knew them and of course there were rumors that she was pregnant and had married him for his money since she had none of her own. While it’s entirely possible that the latter was true – Betsy prospered in every way from her marriage to Malcolm – she was never able to have children, and that, she told me when we finally sat down to talk, was one of the greatest sorrows of her life. I found out later (much later) that while her lack of offspring may indeed have been sorrowful, the facts surrounding the issue had nothing to do with bad luck or problems with fertility as she had suggested.

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To be continued…

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Cover photo ~ Miss Pole Dance-39, Liton Ali, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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