Betty F. (Ferguson) Stewart

Betty F. (Ferguson) Stewart, 92, died Tuesday, March 22, 2016 in St. Vincent Hospital, Worcester, after an illness.

She is survived by four daughters, Carol A. Stewart-Grinkis, and her husband, Wayne, of Sterling, Betsy J. Stewart of Woburn, S. Jan Soares and her husband, Tony, of Hollis, NH, and Julie S. Johnson and her husband, Brian, of Corona Del Mar, CA; and four grandchildren: Alisha and Torin Soares, and Jack and Olivia Johnson. She was predeceased by two sisters, Evelyn (Mrs. George Nixon) and Jean (Mrs. Calvin Cronan). Born in Boston on April 12, 1923, she was the daughter of the late Donald and Anna (Carlborne) Ferguson.

Upon graduation from Newton North HS, Betty pursued her violin career by studying and performing with The Boston Woman’s Symphony Orchestra, Boston Civic Symphony, and the Curtis Institute String Symphony. She won a scholarship to both the NE Conservatory and the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, playing with such greats as Serge Koussevitzky and Leonard Bernstein, always earning accolades for her performances.

After her marriage, she continued to perform in the Boston area including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and other venues. Moving with her family to New Hampshire, she began teaching privately and in the public schools where she earned a grant from the Endowment for the Arts to bring the first string programs to many southern New Hampshire towns. She established the Creative Arts Trio performing regional concerts, weddings, and private events throughout New England. The trio grew into the Creative Arts Performers when Betty managed and booked many instrumentalists and singers in various musical combinations, eventually establishing the Creative Arts Music School, offering lessons and group experiences with a broad based professional staff.

For many years she was principal violinist for the well known and respected Nashua Chamber Orchestra, offering a full year of concerts for area residents. At 88, suffering a rotator cuff injury, her active roles in orchestra, quartets, trios and solo work was curtailed. As a member of the Monadnock Orchestra and Chorus for many years, she traveled abroad and even joined Elder Hostel to play in an orchestra in Estes Park, CO and white water raft in Maine! Her musical contributions to the Amherst, NH, Congregational Church were numerous over the years. While immersed in music, she also worked successfully for many years in the real estate market in southern New Hampshire.

Betty lived in Amherst, Mason and Milford, NH, before joining her daughter Jan and her family in Hollis, where she resided for eight years. In 2013 she moved from Hollis to Assisted Living at Sunrise in Leominster, MA, to be near her oldest daughter, Carol and her husband Wayne, residing in Sterling. In 2014 she relocated to Tatnuck Park in Worcester, MA. In both venues, everyone knew that her love of music endured when she connected with guest performers! Recently, on a specially arranged Dream Day, her career was celebrated by the residents, staff and musical guests from the Pakachoag Music School in Auburn. Surprising all who attended, Betty stood up to show off her beautiful violin and instead, played an entire "presto" violin solo that brought everyone to their feet! She was a big fan of other musical talents as well; Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra and Dianna Krall and jazz greats Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington and Stephan Grapelli. Music in any form made her tap her hands on the table, sing along or move her to dance with the nearest suitor!

Her love of music was a gift she gave to her four daughters who all played instruments and then overflowed to her grandchildren ages 12-29. All have been enriched by their exposure via her hand to theater, singing and dance where they have found their own musical connections.

While her grandchildren were her most proud connection, her prized black cat Cinderella ran a close second. Walking her in a pink carriage and letting her out while they sat in the sun, was special to witness! A lifetime sports enthusiast from high school basketball to skiing, tennis and golf with her family, she was always proficient and competitive. Games of Rummikub and Mexican Train Dominoes with her friends and family were always full of vigor to the end.

We will remember her for the fun days with family; raising horses, cats, rabbits and dogs, picking blueberries, making maple syrup, manning the town ski lift, heated political discussions, family holidays with inevitable music performances, her special recipes for Swedish pancakes and chipped beef dip, a mean slice at the tennis net, her violin which she nicknamed "Jascha" after Heifetz, her stories of travels to Africa, her love for her grandchildren, her diva moments, and her endless support.

Her family will host a celebration of life this summer in the gardens at 84 Rugg Road, Sterling, where she loved to catch the sun and conversation with friends and family. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial donations be made to the Pakachoag Music School of Greater Worcester, 203 Pakachoag Street, Auburn, MA 01501.

McNally & Watson Funeral Home, 304 Church St., Clinton, MA, is assisting the family arrangements. To share a memory of Betty, or offer condolences to her family, please visit www. mcnallywatson.com.