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ORANGE- Bette Jean (Briggs) Jenks, 74, of Orange died peacefully on July 17, 2023 surrounded by all of her children in Heywood Hospital, Gardner following a brief illness.
She was born in Gardner, MA on April 25, 1949, the youngest child of Howard D and Muriel L (Darling) Briggs of Athol. She attended Athol public schools, graduating from Athol High School in 1968 and thus starting her lifelong love of learning. Bette earned her first of two Associate of Science degrees from Greenfield Community College in Art in 1967 and her second in Community Mental Health in 1971. She went on to study Human Service Administration at the University of Phoenix, marking a lifelong career in human services and a lifelong love, appreciation, and practice of fine arts. Bette was always drawing and painting, often depicting horses and the ocean landscapes of Southern Maine, which she visited every year.
Bette was a lover and rescuer of animals who always had dogs and cats living in her home, and her first love was horses. Growing up at the end of Garfield Road in Athol, she always rode and cared for horses at her family’s farm. She could often be seen around town in Athol as a child and young adult, riding her beloved horse Eustace in the 1960s. She rode horses her whole life, until her body no longer allowed. A mutual love of horses is what brought her together and bonded her with the love of her life, Michael Bellemare, who she met in the early 1980s and with whom she shared the rest of her life. When Michael fell ill in 2012, she stopped riding horses to care for him, and he predeceased her by just two months. Bette loved and was very proud of her three children, Johanna “Josie” Jenks and David Durkee, Cody and wife Sarah,, and Michael “Mickey” Bellemare, Jr. She loved being a grandmother, doting on Autumn Upham, Isaac “Ike” Jenks, Eva Jenks, and Orianna “Anna” Newton.
Bette dedicated her working life to helping people and serving her community, working in human services for fifty full years. At the time of her death, Bette was actively employed as the Patch Coordinator at Valuing Our Children and was the facilitator of the North Quabbin Grandparents Support Group. She also served on the Advisory Boards for the Department of Children and Families and Department of Transitional Assistance in the Greenfield Area Offices. Her long and storied career as a case manager, direct care provider, program developer, and social and human services manager also included providing residential services to disabled veterans in Orange for over 25 years. At the Patch, Bette assisted and advocated for families. Her skills in advocacy were such that she is known and remembered as one who was a fighter with an intuitive and realistic understanding of the community and its needs. She leaves behind a proud legacy of many lives changed for the better and many coworkers who have learned from her to carry on the torch.
She is survived by Her three children: Daughter Johanna "Josie" Jenks and her partner David Durkee of Athol, her 2 sons Cody Jenks and wife Sarah of Orange and Michael "Mickey" Bellemare Of Orange. Grandchildren Autumn Upham and children Myles and Giannis, Isaac "Ike" Jenks, Eva Jenks and Orianna "Anna" Newton. Bette's sister Muriel and husband John Gulcsi, brother Wayne and wife Jill Briggs, nephews Jamie and wife Lisa Gulacsi, their children Jackie Rawding and Aaron Gulacsi, Ben and wife Veronica Gulacsi, Will and wife Crystal Briggs and their children Robert, Mary and Maxmilian as well as many cousins throughout the country
There will be a celebration of life for Bette and Michael on September 23rd from 11am to 1pm at the Wheelerville Community Club 698 E. Main St Orange MA.
Donations can be made to the animal rescue of your choice, she had a particular fondness for senior dogs and on her birthday would often ask others to support senior dogs rescues, donations can also be made to Valuing Our Children, make checks payable to Valuing Our Children at 217 Walnut St Athol Ma 01331.
Witty’s Funeral Home, 158 South Main Street, Orange, is assisting the family.
Guest book and directions online at WWW.WITTYFUNERALHOME.COM