Betty Ann: Guiding Example

Betty Ann: Guiding Example

Betty Ann Krahnke superbly represented our area on the Montgomery County Council.

We knew her to be tenacious, information-driven, willing to challenge the complacent, question the accepted premise. The many friends she had knew her to love bright, pretty clothes, a funny story, a vigorous game of tennis.

She was an example to young women of a life as an elected official.

BUT, OH, WHO COULD have known that her years as a Councilmember were to be overshadowed by her life in retirement? For she never accepted that sentence. ALS had her in a wheelchair, her body stilled, her voice gone, but her interests in the world around her, raged on.

On Saturday, the eve of her last day, she was off to Taste of Bethesda. She was questioning, by computer, what friends thought of the gubernatorial debate. Her fire was never banked.

Her courage overwhelmed the terrifying circumstances. Surely the devotion of her friends who continued to visit, to read to her, to get her to the hairdresser, who kept her abreast of the ebb and flow of county news and gossip, fueled her. Her husband Wilson, her daughters, cushioned the difficult days.

BUT IT WAS CLEAR, the character of Betty Ann, dominated the response to ALS. One could approach Betty Ann's wheelchair with sorrow, perhaps pity, even fear, but instead one was caught up in the power of blazing courage reflected in her brillant blue eyes.

Betty Ann became more than a role model for politicians. She became an example of how to live one's life, no matter what the circumstances.

I RECALL four years ago, in this same season, many of us came to Betty Ann's Chevy Chase home. She had an announcement to make. Those of us standing with her that morning as she faced the press knew that she was announcing that she had ALS, but that she would continue to campaign for her Council seat.

Betty Ann was in charge that morning. She knew what she wanted to say, who was to stand where, how the news conference was to be conducted. No one was to break down, no tears, no voiced fear. I recall standing near her, we elected officials grouped together, feeling miserable, wearing a tight smile to mask the pain.

BETTY ANN was in charge, looking a little wan, but not noticeably ill, determined to have the news conference portray her as an able compaigner ready for the next challenge. She succeeded. But, what we had glimpsed that morning was that the challenge was life and Betty Ann was ready for that campaign. She won.

It is not the legislation, not the political debate, not the hearings with the researched questions, that will be remembered about this remarkable woman. It is courage.

Can one have greater legacy?

Light the candles, sing the songs, Betty Ann is free again.