Betty Harkins Obituary (1930 – 2022) – Portage, WI

Betty Harkins

Jan. 23, 1930 – June 13, 2022

PORTAGE – Betty Harkins, 92, of Portage died peacefully on June 13, 2022. Betty Jean Ponti was born on January 23, 1930, to Julia and Milo Ponti. She was raised in Madison with her sister Judy, where she attended St. James Grade School, Edgewood High School, and the University of Wisconsin.

It was in a zoology class at the University where she met her loving husband, Edward. They were married 62 years. Betty was just as devoted to Ed, as she was to her entire family – five sons, five daughters-in-law, 15 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

Betty was a generational thinker and much of her life was devoted to helping young people. She was involved with the formation of the first Head Start Program in Portage, a Cub Scout den mother, and volunteered in the St. Mary second grade reading program well into her eighties. All the while, she raised a family of five boys, showing them how a devoted parent nurtures and loves a family, showing them the value of family. The family dinner, for example, was important to Betty and she would never let one of her boys eat alone, joining them at the table no matter how late they arrived home from a practice.

Betty loved to sing. She was a founding member of the Gale Singers, again singing into her eighties. She could be counted on to know the words to any song, was often the arbiter of disputed lyrics, even singing the second and third verses of songs the rest of us didn’t know had second and third verses. She loved to read (including the Portage Daily Register, day after day, year after year) and do the crossword. She won many trivia contests.

Betty loved Portage and was one of those joiners, participants, and leaders who make Portage such a special place. She was on the Divine Savior Hospital Board, an Executive in the Catholic Women’s Club, and in the Auxiliary of the Wisconsin Optometric Association. She also rolled up her sleeves for the world beyond Portage, traveling with Ed to Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and China on medical mission trips.

Betty was preceded in death by her husband Ed and is survived by a family that loves and admires her. Her sister Judy; her sons: Jeffrey, Dennis, Charles, Tim, and Jack; her daughters-in-law: Barb, Jane, Mary, Lori, and Shelly; her grandchildren: David (Magdalena), Liz (Chris), Gwen (Grant), Julia (Brian), Daniel (Marisela), Katherine (Julio), Elizabeth (Joel), Nathan (Anne), Joseph (Abbey), Lauren (Bill), Lukas (Sydney), Sam, Lilly, Grace, and Grant; her great-grandchildren: Mia, Claire, Zeke, Finn, Vivian, Max, and Eduardo.

The family is grateful for the wonderful care that Betty received from the staff at the Heritage House in Portage, Our House in Lodi, and Villa Pines in Friendship, in addition to the care and compassion given to her over the years from Dr. Elizabeth Strabel, and her staff at SSM, and Dr Brenda Blohm, and the staff at Aspirus Divine Savior.

Betty lived her life taking care of the next generation and she showed us all how to love a family.

If you wish to make a donation on behalf of Betty, please consider the St. Mary Parish Renovation Project, 309 W. Cook Street, Portage, WI 53901 or Portage Center for the Arts, 301 E. Cook St., Portage, WI 53901.

Funeral services and interment will be private, Fr. Gary Krahenbuhl officiating.

Pflanz Mantey Mendrala Funeral Home in Portage is assisting the family.

Published by on Jun. 15, 2022.

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