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Welcome to the memorial page for

Betty Jarratt

April 12, 1923 ~ October 5, 2017 (age 94)

Betty Jarratt passed away peacefully on October 5, 2017 at The Cedars in Portland, Maine. She will be remembered for her unwavering joie de vivre, her determination to achieve goals, and the unquenchable optimism that inspired so many people who encountered her throughout her long life.


Betty was born in Springfield, Mass., on April 12, 1923, the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Targett. After attending West Springfield High School, she went on to Ohio Wesleyan University, where she was elected to the Mortar Board honor society and a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, as well as being the first female editor of the Yearbook. In 1945, she was awarded a Bachelor of Psychology and immediately accepted employment as a Field Director of the Girl Scouts of America, where she directed the first inter-racial day camp in Indianapolis. At first, local opposition was strong enough to necessitate police barricades, but the season ended successfully and young Betty was proud to have contributed to lowering an important social barrier.


After a brief stint working for Arthur Inman, the eccentric author of a 17-million-word diary, Betty moved to Hartford, Ct. to be a Psychiatric Aide at the Institute of Living, garnering her first direct experience with lobotomy and electroshock, innovative therapies whose use deeply disturbed her. In 1947, she married lyric tenor Howard Jarratt and moved to New York City, soon becoming the Administrative Director of the School of Sacred Music at Union Theological Seminary. The next 15 years were an exciting time of intellectual evolution for Betty and artistic growth for Howard, with a highlight being the birth of their two daughters, Kristin in 1949 and Heidi in 1953.


In 1962, Howard was appointed Chair of the Opera Department at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Betty decided to return to academic life, choosing to study the Dallas Police Force for her master's degree thesis; she also collaborated on a project to gather psychological profiles of such nationally prominent figures as Richard Nixon; and she began teaching to nurses at Parkland Hospital. While driving to work on November 22, 1963, hers was the first car stopped by the Secret Service near Dealey Plaza, where Betty's hero President Kennedy had just been tragically shot. The next morning, she was sitting in the Irving, Texas living room of Marina Oswald, sipping tea and beginning a psychological profile that would be cut short by the FBI the following day.


In Dallas, Betty was able to redirect her focus to psychology, and so when her marriage ended in 1966, she was delighted to be chosen by Johns Hopkins Hospital as one of only eight women to participate in a groundbreaking program for mature women, training under Joel Elkes, the father of modern neuropsychopharmacology. Over the next 20 years in Baltimore, Betty worked as psychiatric liaison at Johns Hopkins Hospital and created the first crisis intervention program at Sinai Hospital, while also developing a large private practice and marrying her beloved second husband, actor, singer and director Glenn Burris. In 2006, Betty's dedication and unique skills were rewarded when she became the inaugural recipient of the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry’s Charmian Elkes Award for Innovation in Mental Health Services.


Throughout the '70s, Betty and Glenn spent as much time as possible at their second home on the waterfront in Merepoint, Brunswick, Maine. Countless friends and relatives enjoyed vacations in the classic wood-paneled guest cottage. Both daughters were married in the main house's Great Room, whose floor-to-ceiling glass walls afforded beautiful views of Birch Island in all kinds of weather. By the mid '90s, Betty had moved fulltime to Maine, where she would create an innovative home treatment program for Maine Medical Center, while spending 20 years with the hospital’s Psychiatric Consultation and Liaison Service, providing counseling and comfort to patients in every ward of the hospital. She also carried on a busy private practice in Portland and Brunswick, retiring only at the age of 85. Even after hanging up her official hat, Betty continued her unflagging interest in her fellow human beings, establishing a group called Celebrating Nine Decades, which met monthly at The Atrium, where she resided for six years before moving to Osher Inn. She is predeceased by both her husbands and by her only sibling, best buddy and brother Joe Jr. She will always be a guiding light and inspiration for her daughters Kristin, of Amelia, Italy and Heidi, of Rome, Italy; her granddaughters Jessica and Emily Rampazzi, and her great-granddaughter Kirsten Locatelli, all of Rome, Italy. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Iris Network Serving the Blind, 189 Park Avenue, Portland, ME 04102.

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