By Edwin Siemion
Elizabeth Anne Burke Siemion passed away peacefully in her home in Sublimity, Oregon on Feb. 28 at the age of 93.
Betty is known by most as Ms. Siemion, Betty, or Miss Betty. She was born February 4, 1930 in Norwood, Georgia. She graduated from Perry High School in 1946 at 16 years old, and then received her first degree in 1948 from Middle Georgia College in Cochran at age 18. Due to a shortage of teachers in Georgia, she was able to apply for a teaching certificate, which allowed her to teach in the winter and continue her education during summer breaks. In August 1948, she began teaching in Jessup, Georgia. In 1953, she earned her Bachelor of Science in education from Georgia Teachers College. Still teaching, in 1962 she earned her Master of Arts from George Peabody College for Teachers and at the same time was inducted into Kappa Delta Pi Honor Society.
Betty traveled the United States with several of her fellow teacher friends, teaching here and there as well as traveling abroad. In August of 1966 she landed in Cordova, and that fall started teaching the 7th grade. She taught school full time for 39 years. Twenty-one of those years were right in Cordova — this would be her final stop as a full-time teacher and where she started a family.
In 1987 she officially retired from the Cordova School District, but immediately returned to teaching at the Cordova junior college and as a substitute when needed. Betty also became a full-time volunteer at the Cordova Community Baptist Church. There, she ran many programs including the preschool program and operating the Home Port, lending her southern, homestyle cooking. Betty loved to read, sew, needle point, paint — she must have tried every craft there was. One thing she did often was cook. From her southern dinners, famous taco night in Cordova, to family night with Miss Betty’s Buns at the Home Port.
In 2002 she became a grandmother, and in 2005 she decided to leave Cordova to spend time with her granddaughter. She relocated to the Kenai Peninsula where her oldest son Frank and his wife Sheila had just built a new home. She immediately went to the local schools and signed up to volunteer. Soon, everyone knew Miss Betty and she continued to teach and share her Cordova tradition of cooking until she was 86 years old. She retired from her volunteer work but still taught through stories and experiences.
Her story from childhood to moving to Alaska is truly an amazing tale. Living through the depression, ration stamps during WWII, and numerous historical events. She witnessed some amazing moments — like being in a session of the United Nations on its 10th anniversary, and traveling to France to learn French in order to teach it in elementary schools under a new program called Foreign Language in the Elementary School. Many stories of many places. However, the one place she always referred to as home was Cordova.
Betty is preceded in death by her parents Robert and Ethel Burke, her brother Robert Burke II, and sister-in-law Faye Burke. Betty is survived by son Frank M. Siemion III and daughter-in-law Sheila S. Siemion of Soldotna, Alaska; son Edwin H. Siemion of Gladstone, Oregon; and granddaughter Elizabeth G. Siemion of Peoria, Arizona. She also has nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews from the Burkes in Georgia, the Babics in Cordova, and all of the children she taught throughout the years.
There will be a memorial service for Miss Betty at Cordova Community Baptist church on May 13 at 10:00 a.m. Reception with coffee and snacks to follow at the Home Port downstairs.