Betsy Berry Fritz

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

Former Ketchikan and Juneau resident Elizabeth "Betsy" Berry Fritz died in her sleep on April 15, 2009, at her home in Anchor Point. She was 95.

She was born Elizabeth Mersereau Berry on Sept. 20, 1913, in Elmira, N.Y., but her home was Tioga, Pa., where she spent her childhood years. Trained as a registered nurse, she was a student at Brooklyn Hospital when she met intern Milo H. Fritz. They married in Tioga in 1937 and soon after moved to Alaska, drawn by the tremendous medical needs of Alaska's Native people as well as the territory's vast and breathtaking beauty. She and her late husband worked in concert to bring modern medical care to thousands of Alaskans.

She assisted her husband in a medical practice first based in Ketchikan in 1940. Following Dr. Fritz's World War II service, they moved the practice to Anchorage in 1948. Over the next 37 years until retirement in 1985, they routinely set up itinerant clinics throughout Alaska, bringing essential medical care, by whatever means necessary.

Betsy made all the logistical arrangements for Dr. Fritz to ensure he was properly equipped with whatever medical supplies he might need, and handled the paperwork and the myriad details, before and after the clinics.

"Betsy's innate talent for organization and detail were further challenged as she juggled motherhood and professional responsibilities. During those years, when her participation in the clinics was limited, she still played a key role from the office, ensuring that the clinics went smoothly. She was an astute businesswoman and ran a tight ship. Tall and stately, she could be a formidable presence, but when not in her impeccable nurse's uniform, she was a gracious and generous lady, full of fun and keen for adventure," her family said.

She was a member of the Alaska Nurses Association, serving as its first president in 1951. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a direct descendent of William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony of Massachusetts.

She was preceded in death by Milo, and sons Jonathan and Pieter.

She is survived by her sister-in-law, Helen Fritz, of Chestertown, Md.; four nieces, Karen Western of Chestertown, Linda Bell of North Palm Beach, Fla., Lenore Budd of Hinesburg, Vt., and Barbara Schaff of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.; and a nephew, Karl Fritz, of Alexandria, Va.

In accordance with her wishes, no memorial service is planned.

Remembrances and condolences can be sent to Fritz Remembrances, P. O. Box 158, Anchor Point, AK 99556. Memorial donations may be made to Southcentral Foundation, Attn: Finance Department, 4175 Tudor Centre Drive, Anchorage AK 99508, for their Native Primary Care Center.

Arrangements were made by Peninsula Memorial Chapel in Kenai.

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