Betty Meckstroth. Courtesy: Family of Betty Meckstroth

Elizabeth “Betty” Meckstroth, 82, was born to Swiss and Czech immigrants, Rene Lutz and Emilia Zazvorka, in Bethesda, Maryland. She lived as a young woman in Washington, DC, where she loved that everyone was so passionate about making a difference in the world. She skied to work in Vermont and Switzerland in her 20s and called skiing “the only sport I ever loved.” (She still did a seven-mile cross country ski day with all her granddaughters in her 70s.) Although she studied sociology at American University, she talked much more wistfully about her summer at UC Berkeley in the 1960s. 

She married Alan Meckstroth and raised her two daughters, Karen and Annie, in Dayton, Ohio, with a Berkeley flair that included a personal relationship with the local health food store, neighborhood yoga, meditation and Reike. She obtained a master’s in counseling and became a widely published and nationally traveled expert in the emotional needs of highly gifted children (and the expert in the daily emotional support of her family!)  She was co-author of Guiding the Gifted Child, one of the first, most important, award-winning books on the gifted.

At 50, she moved to Chicago where she added a master’s in social work and helped countless families navigate life with super bright children. She married Bill Parish, a sociologist and department chair at University of Chicago and fellow world traveler and appreciator of other cultures, who became the dear love of the rest of her life.

When they retired 15 years ago, she and Bill moved to Berkeley to join her daughters and their families, Karen (& Mike Linn) in Berkeley and Annie (& Ryan Deering) in Davis. Amma (the grandma name she preemptively chose while in Nepal) loved, cooked for, read to and appreciated her four granddaughters, Kira, Sada, Zara & Ruby. They all recite the 40 fun “Amma-isms” that framed every family gathering: 

  • Are we livin?! 
  • A good time was had by all!
  • I’m so happy I could just pop!
  • Smells powerful good in here!
  • Chocolate cake! It’s not just for breakfast anymore!

She could find humor and beauty in the unseen — the tiny flower emerging from the crack, the face that the watermelon seeds made on your plate. She overflowed with appreciation and gratitude for so many aspects of life. As Alzheimer’s progressed, she usually responded to “How are you?” with “Parts of me are excellent!” She loved to laugh and recited stories, poems, songs and word puns, and always loved children. A month before her death, she maintained her daily flower appreciation walks in the neighborhood and at her 82nd birthday with all her family, recounted what a great life she had. “I could not be more content,” she said. 

Betty Meckstroth on her 82nd birthday. Courtesy: Family of Betty Meckstroth

She had an abrupt change to end-stage disease and spent her last week at home in a beautiful glass sunroom surrounded by family, flowers and hummingbirds. She died at 11:11 p.m., the beginning of National Day of Gratitude and the Fall Equinox, even in death reminding us to look for the magic and synchronicity in life. Her cup was full and had endless kindness and love to share. She was like no other.

In lieu of flowers please do an act of kindness in her honor.