"If you can sign your own name, I can teach you to paint." - Betty Josephine Antonio ( 1941 - 2014 )
I’m pretty sure I inherited my sense of fashion from my mother, which is to say that neither of us has ever had any real sense in that department. Betty was a painter and her clothes always had paint on them. My father never quite accepted this self-evident truth and was insistent that she maintain one set of clothes for painting and another for social occasions. I imagine that went down something like this: My father, Jim, God rest his soul, in his most condescending and endearing manner saying, “Now, Betty, these jeans and tee-shirts are for you to wear when you’re painting and these nice blouses are to be reserved for other occasions, like attending social functions or going out to dinner. While my dad’s talking I imagine Betty hearing this, “blah blah blah blah blah ... did you say something about dinner?"
... “that’s so Betty” is what anybody who knew her would say. Among the top ten things that my mother would never say is, “Golly gee whiz, I’m feeling inspired right now. I should change into my painting uniform and get busy being creative.” She was my hero and she made it look so easy to be one’s self one-hundred percent of the time.
My mother gave me the gift of a wonder-filled childhood where I could make of the world what I so desired. It was a pretty simple formula she used: she made certain that I would never doubt that she was in my corner but she left it to me to figure out that actions lead to consequences. When I got myself into trouble we didn’t sit down afterward and go over what I did in calm manner and talk about “blah blah ... other person’s point of view ... blah blah ... what we’re you thinking ... blah blah .. etc.” In other words, she never put me in a position where I felt like I had to defend my actions or worse, admonish myself by adopting someone else’s values. I am proud to say that, much like Betty, I don’t waste my time defending my life choices to others. She and I will leave that to the people who simply can’t or won’t accept responsibility for their actions and adherence to their own principles. Betty lead by example; my claiming ownership of my ideals and actions was just one of the many lessons she taught me without teaching me.
Betty and I spent the last seven years of her life in
this world together and I will be ever grateful for the time we were given. She lived as both teacher and student her entire life and everyone
around her was bathed in the light of her caring and generous spirit. She was my greatest teacher and friend. She taught everyone else how to
paint and she taught me how to live and how to love. This latest adventure of mine will be the best of my life as I am looking forward to
exchanging stories of my greatest champion with so many people who were blessed to call her friend, teacher, student, sister, grandmother,
great-grandma, but always, “Betty.”
Betty's friend, Carleton Cole, filmed the last video of her giving a lesson in Houston, Texas in May 2013. The video is hosted on YouTube at Painting with Betty Antonio