Bettie Gallaher

Obituary of Bettie June Gallaher

Bettie June Gallaher, born Bettie June Ofner, died on April 1 at the age of 100 – two months shy of reaching 101. Known by her friends as “BJ,” she was a charismatic woman full of class who always dressed smartly and loved hats, baubles, and bangles and was almost never without her signature XL dark sunglasses- and a Hermes silk scarf never far away. BJ was born in Kansas City, Kansas on June 6th, 1922. Her life spanned over 100 years of history – filled with joys and sorrows, battles, and victories, in her personal and family life at the same time as the world around her experienced enormously important historical events. BJ always wanted a large family. Raised by her aunt and uncle until the age of 13, after the divorce of her parents, she spent many years sheltered by the love and affection of her grandparents on both sides. At the age of 13 she reunited with her mother and new stepfather and left Kansas City for Seattle to attend high school where she met her best lifelong friend, Miriam Carey, who survives her to this day. At the age of 18, BJ met her husband, Robert Adrian Gallaher, a student majoring in mining engineering and member of ROTC at the University of Washington, shortly before the outbreak of World War II and soon thereafter married. Her husband, Robert, joined the Army as a lieutenant and later became a Captain. BJ got her wish for a large family ultimately having five children or her own and adopting two more (three children surviving, today). After WWII, BJ and her husband lived in Pasadena, San Gabriel, and San Marino before moving to Phoenix, AZ where her husband started a metal recycling and parts business specializing in military aircraft. Ultimately BJ and Robert moved their family to Tucson, AZ, where BJ called home since 1965.


BJ suffered from the heartache of losing four of her seven children in her lifetime but never lost her own passion for living. BJ loved to travel; she and her husband visited over a dozen countries around the world, compiling wonderful memories, collectibles, and many photograph albums. Both BJ and her husband loved visiting art galleries and the Navajo reservation purchasing and collecting Western art and native American Indian jewelry, pottery, and blankets. Their travels took them to almost every continent and often they took their children with them. After her husband Robert passed away in 1991 (while travelling together in Scotland), BJ continued travelling with a few close friends until she met Michael Donaldson on The Queen Elizabeth in the Panama Canal in the late 1990s. The two became life partners and travelled together, spending time in Portland, Oregon, Kona, Hawaii, the White Mountains of Arizona, and Tucson, Arizona in addition to other travel adventures including the Orient Express. Even recently, she travelled to California to visit and support her oldest daughter’s battle with cancer, and attended her best friend, Miriam’s 100th birthday celebration. She overcame several close calls to her own health during the last few decades of her life including two bouts of cancer, an emergency gall bladder surgery, numerous trips to the hospital; and proved astonishingly resilient even to the end of her days. Up until a few months before she passed, BJ lived independently with her partner, Michael, greeting caregivers at the front door of her own home in the morning, smartly dressed with make-up and jewelry. BJ was especially fond of native American jewelry and art.


BJ is predeceased by her husband, Robert Gallaher, her children Suzanne Whipple and husband Jim Whipple, Candace Gallaher, Daniel Gallaher, and John-Patrick Gallaher. She is survived by her partner of 20+ years, Michael Donaldson, and her children, David Gallaher and wife, Susan, Scott Gallaher and wife, Karen Lajiness, Phoebe Burrows, her grandchildren Patrick Saeger and wife Nicole, Molly Saeger, Katy Saeger Kranz, Sairey Andrews and husband Ryan, Connor and Meghan Gallaher, Emily Gallaher, Sydney and Bridget Burrows, many great-grandchildren; and her best life-long friend, Miriam Carey (also 100).


BJ lived a long, complex, beautiful, and dignified life filled with some wonderful ups and some heartbreaking downs. A discerning woman of exquisite taste, she provided her family with love and comfort with a dash of wit and wisdom. BJ kept her wit and wisdom until the end. When introduced to a new housemate at her care home who was 98 years old, BJ touched her affectionately and said, “You go, girl!” and then pointed her signature finger and said, “But, you’ve got some catching up to do.” BJ will be laid to rest in East Lawn Cemetery with a private service attended by family.

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We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Adair Funeral Homes - Avalon Chapel
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