Escondido, CA
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Elizabeth “Betty” Bulen, 98

founder of Elizabeth Hospice

Elizabeth W. Bulen, “Betty”, died December 2 at Champine Manor, an assisted living home in Escondido, California where she had resided for the last two and a half years. She was 98.
Born in Massachusetts on September 29, 1919, Elizabeth, as she was known to her family, was the first of three children born to Rev. Russell W. Bosworth and his wife Helen. Her brother Russell, was born 3 years later and her sister Lois 2 years after that. The young family moved often as Reverend Bosworth established himself within the Methodist Church.
Elizabeth’s life changed swiftly and dramatically when just after her seventh birthday, her father died from scarlet fever, leaving her mother, Helen alone to raise three young children.
Within a year, Helen found a teaching position in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and moved the young family there from Brockton Mass. When the depression began, life became even more difficult for the one parent family, but they handled it with dignity, all the children, pitching in to help. During high school, Elizabeth wrote a paper on death and dying, which suggests how early in her life the seed was planted for the Hospice work which would become the major focus of her later years. Elizabeth graduated from the high school there in 1937. Her sister Lois says she stood out even then. Many people referred to her as “The Queen of East Bridgewater”.
In 1938, Elizabeth “Betty” began her nurse training at Maine General Hospital and graduated in June of 1941. She worked in private practice until duty called and she joined the Army on October 25, 1944.
Betty was a Second Lieutenant and worked on a children’s ward in the United States prior to being transferred to the Philippines to care for the sick and injured in Biak at the evacuation hospital. She returned to the United States in December 1945 and was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in the Philippines.
Soon after coming home, Betty met Jim Bulen who was a doctor in training for the Army Air Force. They married in his hometown of Escondido, on August 25, 1946 and moved to Vermont for Medical School, where they had their first of five children, Ann, in 1947. By the end of 1955, they were in Tachikawa, Japan where their fifth child, Marilynn, was born.
Now a family of seven, with sons, Steve, Ed and Bill sandwiched between the two girls, they stayed in Japan for three years, where Betty studied the art of Japanese flower arranging. She used her talent for many years to come making floral arrangements for the church and community. They were transferred to Carswell Airforce Base near Ft. Worth in 1958 where Jim finished his last 2 years of required service.
The family then moved to Escondido, and Betty worked as a nurse again for a short time to help Jim begin his private practice on Grand Ave.
She stayed busy running her bustling household while remaining active in the Methodist Church and local women’s organizations including P.E.O.
Betty & Jim divorced in 1974 and she went back to work as a nurse in a Rancho Bernardo doctors’ office.
During this time, Betty read an article on St. Christopher’s Hospice in London, and her interest was so aroused by what she read, she and her friend Betty Benz, went to London to meet St. Christopher’s founder, Dame Cicely Saunders, and learn more about hospice work. They came home inspired and invited two friends, Ann Elizabeth Warren and Kay Elizabeth Austin, to help them establish a Hospice in the Escondido area. The Elizabeth Hospice became a reality when it was incorporated in 1978.
Since that modest beginning, the organization has now grown to comprise around 350 staff and 400 volunteers, who continue to do the important work of easing the way for the dying and assisting the family as well during their loved one’s final days.
After retiring from actively running The Elizabeth Hospice, Betty continued to be involved as an honorary ambassador and received national recognition from the United Way for bringing her dream to fruition. Over the years, she received other awards from many civic organizations honoring her work and dedication to The Elizabeth Hospice.
Throughout her life, Betty’s spiritual growth was very important to her and she began meditating in the early 1970’s. In addition to her early work with the Methodist Church, she became a founding member of the Rancho Bernardo “Light of Life” Religious Science Church in 1996, and served on their Board of Directors. Later, Betty was quite involved with the Ananda Organization.
She always stayed very active with her large extended family and friends and her house was the center for most family holidays and many other impromptu gatherings. She loved the Padres. She loved to play games, especially Scrabble, Cribbage and Hand & Foot and she was good at them. She also liked to play Charades and Taboo with the family, but the results were more comedic than good. She could never stop talking when she was supposed to pantomime in Charades, and she could never think of a word to say other than “oh” and “um” when she was the verbal clue giver in Taboo. The family would laugh until we cried.
Betty was lucky enough to stay in her own home until the age of 95 thanks to the fact that her much younger and devoted friend and meditation partner, Arlene Webber, lived at the house and helped care for her.
Betty is survived by her sister Lois, all her children, 21 grandchildren, many more great-grandchildren, and all her sons- and daughters-in-law. They all loved her and will miss her greatly.
One of her grandsons summed up how all her grandchildren felt about her when he said, “She not only left a legacy of The Elizabeth Hospice, but a legacy of a family that truly believes in service, compassion and kindness to others.” They could not be more proud of Grandma Betty. We all are. Rest in peace, Mom.
The community is invited to a public Celebration of Life, in honor of Betty Bulen and the trusted, respected community-resource she founded through The Elizabeth Hospice, on Saturday, January 13, from 3 to 5 p.m. at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. For more info or to RSVP, please call 760-796-3797 or email BulenEvent@ehospice.org
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to The Elizabeth Hospice, which Betty founded in 1978, and is currently the oldest and largest nonprofit hospice program in San Diego County. Donate online at www.elizabethhospice.org/donate or mail donations to The Elizabeth Hospice 500 La Terraza Blvd., Suite 130 Escondido, CA 92025 or call 800-797-2050.

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