Betty Rockwell was a survivor. She outlived two husbands, the first who died of cancer just weeks before the birth of their child, leaving Betty a widow at age 18.
They met through Betty’s sister, Kate, who was married to Jack Morris’ brother. Jack was a horse trainer at Hagerstown Raceway and was 29 when he died.
“She definitely was an independent woman, even when married. She had no qualms about being able to take care of herself,” said youngest son, Edward “Ed” Rockwell of Hagerstown. “I just feel she was dedicated to both her husbands and her children 100 percent.”
“She taught us to never depend on anyone else, to be self-sufficient,” said daughter, Denise Grove of Hagerstown. “We’ve all got good lives because of what our mother taught us.”
Betty was one of five children in her family to survive to adulthood. Two siblings died in infancy and one died as a young child.
She was a tomboy compared to Kate, growing up with three brothers. She quit high school to work to help support the family, earning her general equivalency diploma when her youngest child, Ed, was in middle school.
“I remember Washington Street Middle School was where she went. We’d go with her in the evenings and do our homework,” Denise said. “When she got her GED, she was really proud of herself, and we were proud, too.”
Betty’s three children graduated from North Hagerstown High School.
“Education was very important to Mom,” said oldest son, Robert “Bob” Morris of Sacramento, Calif. “She wanted her kids to get an education and be in a stable environment.”
After her first husband died, Betty worked at the Hagerstown Shoe Factory and the Arrow Shirt Factory in Pennsylvania. She also waited tables, but didn’t think it was a good fit.
“She said she wasn’t a very good waitress,” Ed said.
“Only because my mother wouldn’t take lip from anybody,” Bob said.
Bob said his mother worked two shifts when he was young, with her parents and his Aunt Kate helping take care of him. She married Jack Rockwell in 1959, whom she met while waitressing.
Denise was born in 1960, followed by Ed four years later.
Not long after they were married, the Rockwells bought a house on Michigan Avenue, where they lived for more than 20 years. In 1983, they moved to a home on Red Oak Drive, about five years before Jack Rockwell’s death. It was there that Betty lived for the rest of her life.
When Ed was a teenager, Betty worked at a children’s clothing store near Hagerstown’s Public Square.
Betty was involved with her children’s activities, from Little League and Scouts for the boys, to color guard for Denise and other sporting endeavors.
“She never missed a game,” Ed said.
She also went to her seven grandchildren’s sporting events as much as possible. There also are three great-grandchildren.
Betty Jane Rockwell
Betty Dunn was 17 in this photo taken in 1948. (Submitted photo / January 12, 2013)