The Laurels’ Betty Schaefer has had a life filled with poverty and blessings, and with the joy and love that comes from faith and family.
Her story has been captured in a 200-page book produced for her family of four children and nearly 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Born in South Africa, Betty said her mother, Emily, was “very unselfish, going without so she could give to others”. With her mother profoundly deaf, Betty learned to communicate by spelling words on her fingers.
“It taught me early in life that some people are incapacitated and they need to be considered.”
It was a lesson she would take into her career as a nurse and a rural doctor’s wife.
In 1936, Emily and 13-year-old Betty migrated to Adelaide to be near an aunt. At 21, she sat for the nurses’ entrance exam and trained in Port Lincoln and Adelaide, and kept close the many friends she’d met in her nursing years. One of these friends introduced her to a soon-to-be medical student, Ron Schaefer, and they were engaged in 1948.
“Ron proposed to me on the southern side of Horseshoe Bay, up on the sand hills,” Betty wrote in her memoirs. “I had a feeling he was going to propose because his heart was beating at a terrific rate. I said, ‘Ron, your heart is beating very fast’ because I knew why and I thought I would hurry him along a bit.”
Life with a medical student proved amusing. At one point, they lived in a single room, with a skeleton in a box under the bed.
When Ron graduated in 1957, they bought a private practice in rural Karoonda, near Murray Bridge in South Australia. There, where their home doubled as a surgery with endless hours of work, they raised their young family. In 1962, they joined a larger medical practice in Mt Barker.
On retirement, they enjoyed travelling, including volunteering in a refugee camp, before Ron suddenly passed away aged 72. Betty remained in Mt Barker, delivering Meals on Wheels and helping to run a church community program for many years. In January this year, she returned to South Africa with the support of her son, Paul, to visit her remaining family.
Betty said she hoped Life’s Memoirs helped her family to know more about the life that she and Ron had created.
“Ron was always kind, thoughtful and loving, and I was so thankful for the godly man I married.”