Lives Remembered

Co Derry nurse was passionate supporter of NHS

Betty Evans had a rich and varied nursing career

THE NHS was just five months old when Elizabeth Evans was born in December 1948.

A passionate supporter of the health service, over the next 69 years she would spend much of her life working in it.

Born at home in The Straw, Dungiven, the middle child in a family of three to Sarah-Jane and William Wray, Betty grew up surrounded by the magnificent landscape of the Roe Valley.

Fittingly her final resting place is the picturesque Dungiven Church of Ireland cemetery in the shadow of Benbradagh and overlooking the family's farm.

Over a cup tea in the Ogilby parish hall, local councillor Boyd Douglas, a childhood acquaintance, shared memories of a carefree rural childhood.

Aged seventeen-and-a-half, Betty then left home to embark on a career in nursing at the Mid Ulster Hospital.

During her beautiful funeral service in Limavady's Free Presbyterian Church, Rev William McCrea recalled a fond image of the young student nurse skipping up the street in Magherafelt.

A rich and varied nursing career also included the Roe Valley and Altnagelvin hospitals.

Following retirement Betty worked with Marie Curie and latterly with Dalriada Urgent Care.

She married her soulmate Lee in 1971 and couple's four children, Gwyneth, Karen, Andrew and Leeona, were her proudest achievement.

Daily life was guided by a deep Christian faith and the congregation were reminded of her favourite piece of scripture: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” (3rd John v 4)

She also relished time spent with her 12 grandchildren, with whom many hours were spent in the kitchen baking cakes, tray bakes and generally passing on a lifetime of memories.

Betty's beloved husband died suddenly in 2012, and although bereft by the loss, she carried on with an inspirational stoicism and dedication to helping others.

Something that many people didn't know is that she had been living with multiple sclerosis for 25 years. Determined not to let the condition define her, Betty worked hard to remain active, independent and healthy.

In 2014 she took a diagnosis of ovarian cancer and the subsequent treatment in her stride.

When an unrelated cancer appeared last year Betty accepted the news with her typical grace.

Determined to live every minute of the life with which she had been blessed, she travelled with Karen and Leeona to spend a memorable weekend at the home of Gwyneth in Newcastle-upon Tyne.

Befitting of a woman who had welcomed both her mother and mother-in-law into her home and nursed them until their deaths.

In her final days Betty was cared for at home by her family and died peacefully surrounded by their love and prayers on January 31.