Elizabeth Bjornlund Grater, 97, died at home in Athens, Tennessee on October 27, 2021, surrounded by her three children. She was born in Ogdensburg, NY, and spent her childhood in Cornwall, Ontario and La Tuque, Quebec, with summers on Halfway Island in the St. Lawrence River. She graduated from Walnut Hill High School in Massachusetts and attended Smith College before earning a Nursing Degree from the Montreal General Hospital in 1946. While in Montana she met William Clyde Grater and the two were married in 1950.
Betty continued her nursing work in Colorado and Idaho until shifting her love and attention to raising their four children. The family moved to Tennessee in 1954, where Bill rose to become general manager of the Bowater Southern Paper Corporation and Betty eventually returned to her nursing career, working in the Athens schools. Even after formal retirement, she volunteered faithfully in the Athens hospital, tended her grandchildren’s scrapes and cuts, and took care of her beloved husband of 60 years in his final months.
Betty was also an accomplished artist, a charter member of the Tennessee Watercolor Association, and a contributor to exhibits across the state and beyond. She painted not for the accolades (though she received many), but for the love of art and especially her subjects: the landscapes of East Tennessee, the St. Lawrence River, and the many places she visited for workshops or pleasure. Most treasured, though, are her portraits of her children and grandchildren. Always humble about her talent, Betty was hesitant to sell her work, but hundreds of her paintings grace the houses of friends and families across the country.
Betty’s life in Athens was full of joy and good works. She was a loyal and devoted friend to many, an active member in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and dedicated to community service. She and Bill were instrumental in founding the Athens YMCA, starting its competitive swim program, and Betty taught Red Cross Learn to Swim classes for many years. She was a founder of the local chapter of Compassionate Friends and served on the boards of Tennessee Wesleyan College and the Athens Area Arts Council. Betty gave a loving home to horses and countless dogs through the years. She was famous for her roses, which she arranged and generously gave away to others.
Betty was the acknowledged matriarch and role model for her growing family. All recognized that behind her elegance and politeness was a sharp intellect and a fierce independence of thought. With her clear ideas about what was right, and her willingness to express those ideas, Betty set high standards for all she loved.
Betty endured tragedy in her life, but God blessed her many times over. She made the most of her time on earth, living always with grace, dignity, and a greater concern for the well-being of others than for herself. Betty died peacefully, full of love and loved by many.
She was preceded in death by her husband; her son, Frederick Eric Grater; and her brother Eric. Survivors include her sister, Britta Blum of Princeton, N.J.; children: Bill and his wife, Diana, of Clayton, N.Y., Chris and his wife, Kim, of Boone, N.C., and Lisa Schenker and her husband, David, of Columbia, MO; six grandchildren: Emily Grater, Fritz Schenker, Katie Hardee, Lizzy Grater, Julie Falua, and Lars Grater; five great-grandchildren; and beloved nieces and nephews, and numerous cousins.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; McMinn Regional Humane Society; Athens-McMinn Family YMCA; Athens Area Council for the Arts; or Save The River.
A funeral service will be conducted, 2:00 pm, Sunday, October 31, 2021 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with Rev. Claire Brown officiating. Visit stpaulsathens.org to find the livestream service. The committal service will be at 10:00 am, Monday at McMinn Memory Gardens.
You may sign the guest register at www.smithfuneralandcremationservices of athens.com.