Editor's note: Each week reporter Matthew Guerry shares the life stories of residents of Minnesota or the Dakotas who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email email@example.com or call 651-321-4314.
Betty Truitt made a point of helping people through tough times having experienced a few of her own.
"I did the food line," she told the Rochester Post-Bulletin in 2013. "I ate Cheerios three meals a day. I know what it's like. I've seen the need."
Such was life at times for the single working mother of four. And because she knew well how hard life could be, she also made a point to tell patrons of the food shelf she later started not to feel ashamed.
"As I tell people, there's no shame in being hungry," Truitt, of Rochester, Minn., said shortly after it opened.
Elizabeth "Betty" Truitt died from a stroke Feb. 22, 2021. She was 76.
Described by those who knew her as a feminist, Truitt died having passed on the values of strength and independence to her four daughters. But she wasn't so proud that she wouldn't seek help when she needed it, according to her daughter Liz Ali.
"She leaned a lot on people and, in turn, she found a way to give back and let people lean on her," Ali, of Jacksonville, Fla., said.
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Born in St. Louis, Mo., to Vincent and Elizabeth Passanise on Aug. 10, 1944, Truitt graduated from Webster Groves High School and went on to serve as a triage nurse in the Vietnam War. She returned to the U.S. a proud veteran, living in the southwest before moving to Rochester in 1972.
She continued to work in nursing, first for the Olmsted Medical Center and later as a traveling nurse. In what free time she had, Truitt pursued a diverse range of interests including sewing, airplanes, motorcycles, travel, education, reading and rescue animals. On the side, she ran a cake-making business.
Truitt was active in civic organizations such as the Lions Club, with whom she started the food bank at the Rochester Community and Technical College, where she later enrolled as a nontraditional student.
She also performed frequently in Rochester Civic Theatre productions and in melodramas in Mantorville, Minn.
Her daughter called theater an outlet for Truitt, an escape from the sometimes difficult circumstances of her life. She strove to make it an outlet for audiences, too, and "loved to make people laugh," Ali said.
She was known for cracking jokes and sharing stories offstage as well.
Daughter Jennifer Budd said Truitt tried to make up for the experiences she felt she couldn't always provide for her daughters by being an active grandparent. She attended many of her grandchildren's games and other activities.
Truitt left behind a moped that Budd said her son will inherit.
"He will be riding in that moped and honoring her every single day that he rides it," Budd, also of Jacksonville, said.
Truitt was preceded in death by her parents and her sister, Kathleen Passanise. She is survived by her daughters, Ali, Budd, Christine Halverson and Deborah Hangbe, and by her grandchildren.
A celebration of her life is planned for the end of the month at the Rochester Civic Theatre.