Elizabeth “Betty” Cary

Betty Cary


Betty Cary
Betty Cary

Elizabeth “Betty” Cary, 90, of Sag Harbor, died at Southampton Hospital after a brief illness, August 27, 2015; services were held at St. Andrews Roman Catholic Church in Sag Harbor September 1, 2015.

Mrs. Cary was born November 26, 1924 in Babylon, L.I. to John P. Cowie and Elizabeth Cowie (nee Hardie). She and her two siblings, Margaret and Jack, were first generation born in the USA as their parents had immigrated to the US from Scotland after World War I.

Mrs. Cary grew up on Long Island on a large estate as her father was a much sought after Scottish gardner. After attending school for five years in the one room schoolhouse on the estate, she then attended West Islip High School where she graduated in 1940. After graduation, she began her career as a registered nurse in 1942 by attending Southampton Hospital Nursing School, from which she graduated in 1946.

In June, 1948, she married George F. Cary who pre-deceased her in 1988. Together they raised 6 daughters; Suzanne (Carmine) Marchisella, Joanne (Bruce) Dombkowski, Rosemarie (Bruce) Winchell, Margaret (Jim) Smyth, Lisa (James) Koehne and Fran (Russell) Nill. They lived on Bay Street in Sag Harbor for 45 years.

Mrs. Cary became a devoted member of St. Andrews parish in Sag Harbor when she married George. This fact was pointed out to one daughter who tried to stay in bed one Sunday morning by using the excuse that mommy isn’t going to Sunday mass – because she had just gone to bed after her night shift — why do I have to and Dad with a glint in his eyes turned and said “Your Mother attended mass on her way home from the hospital this morning” and that daughter quickly got ready for Mass.

Mrs. Cary was devoted to her career; she was compassionate but tough when necessary and always did her best for more than 35 years caring for the community. Except for a small stint at Todd’s Nursing Home her whole career was spent at Southampton Hospital where she became the nurse supervisor. However, wanting to be at the front lines, she became the 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. registered nurse in the emergency room for the remainder of her career. Back then she was sometimes the only RN in the ER with an aid and an administrative worker to assist; whether it be late night injuries, sicknesses or just needing a blood test, she was discreet and professional often times treating friends and acquaintances as well as strangers. Over the years, she became very close to many police officers – Ted Stafford, Bill Barbour, Chet Walker, Terry Crowley, Bob Harrington, Bob Schiavoni, Bob Olenjik to name just a few — who she could always depend upon to come to her aid if a patient was not cooperating. She was tough and was there to help all. She loved many of her hospital compatriots; nurses Peggy, Mel, Eileen, Noreen, Helen; Doctors Livingston, Maron, Petrillo, Halsey, Johnson, Fear, Markham, Andrews; her beloved aid Carl and so many, many others.

Mrs. Cary became the president of her nurses’ union at Southampton Hospital in the 80’s, and walked the 1984 nurse’s strike picket line with granddaughter Aimee in tow. She actively fought for and helped get better pay and working conditions for the nurses who dedicated their lives to the care of others.

She retired from Southampton Hospital in 1990 but was not ready to relax, so she took a part time job as a nurse supervisor at Utopia Home Care for a number of years. When they asked her to work full time, she decided to leave her employ with them as she wanted time for her family. However, her desire to help others caused her to volunteer part time at the Dominican Sister’s Thrift Store in Sag Harbor for many years.

Mrs. Cary loved having a large family, and she and George would allow their daughters to add to the young people at home with some close friends who just wanted to sleep over just for a few weeks, or until they got on their feet.

As her daughters began their own lives she was proud to be nanny to her beloved grandchildren. She babysat often and was generally seen playing whatever games they wanted her to play whether it was a board game, coloring or catching ghosts with the latest Ghostbusting equipment.

Even with her busy schedule she found time for her own interests; she was a voracious reader, did crossword puzzles in pen and loved to knit — especially Christmas stockings for her girls and grandkids. She kept her floral plants blooming and her songbirds singing. She enjoyed holiday crafts such as making her Christmas gingerbread house and Halloween Costumes for her daughters and sometimes their friends. Mrs. Cary had little time left to join active groups, but would stay connected with them and assist others with their efforts through daily phone calls or coffee at Barbara’s, Glady’s or Caroline’s. She always offered her nursing services to neighbors and friends when they needed it, often times at her kitchen table.

She was warm and funny, had a clever wit and loved to spend time with family and friends. And with such a big family and many friends there was no shortage of gatherings at the Cary home on Bay Street, other family and friends’ homes or many of the parties held by the Sag Harbor Fire Dept. and the American Legion both of which her husband was a compassionate member.

Mrs. Cary is universally remembered as compassionate and loving and was much beloved by all who knew her and she will be sorely missed.

She was pre-deceased by her parents and siblings and her grandson, Alex Koehne and her great nephew, Andy Irvine. She is survived by all her daughters, and sons-in-laws along with 17 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews of the Cary, Cowie, Hardie and Kelly families.

Memorial donations for Betty Cary can be made to St. Judes Children’s Hospital in Memory of Alex Koehne by accessing on line at stjude.org or mailing to St. Judes Children’s Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN, 38105 or to the charity of your choice.


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Gavin Menu is the sports editor, advertising director and co-publisher of The Sag Harbor Express and Express Magazine. Reach him at gmenu@sagharborexpress.com.