Life Lessons, is a 2019 project highlighting the life and times of Wisconsin Seventh-day Adventist Church members who are 90 years of age or older, and still actively serving and loving Jesus
Born on January 12, 1928, Betty Lu Heisig, age 91, lives alone in a cute little house, built by her husband, Howard, shortly after their marriage in 1949. Betty and “Howie,” as she loving refers to her husband, raised two boys and one girl, Greg, Julie, and Jimmy, in this place they’ve called home for nearly 65 years. Through the years, Betty has enjoyed working with the children in Cradle Roll, Kindergarten, and Primary Sabbath School Divisions in the Madison Church. She also helped with many JMV programs on Friday nights. Another ministry of Betty’s was hospital visitation.
Betty’s parents immigrated from Germany and settled in Madison, Wisconsin area. In a letter to her mother back in Germany, Betty’s mom commented on the un-Christian habit her neighbor had of washing her clothes on Sunday. That neighbor, Mable Sterling, was a Seventh-day Adventist, and soon Mable and Betty’s mom began Bible studies together. “My mother was baptized at Portage camp meeting, and Dad remained a Lutheran,” said Betty. Although they lived out in the country, Betty remembers receiving the “Little Friend” and the Sabbath School Quarterly in their mail box regularly.
Betty and Howard
After academy, Betty found a short-term job selling individual cakes for fifty cents at the entrance of a grocer. A group of guys stocking shelves noticed Betty, and soon waged a bet on who would be the first to take Betty on a date. Meanwhile, Betty noticed the guys stocking shelves, and couldn’t take her eyes off one young man with curly blond hair. “He was the most gorgeous man I’d ever seen in my while life!” said Betty. “I guess Howie got $5 for asking me out. I don’t know if he really wanted to meet me, or just win the bet, but we went out.”
Howard Heisig and Betty continued dating and began studying the Bible together. His family thought Betty must be Jewish because she went to church on Saturday. “Howie had attended a Lutheran church school,” said Betty. “And let me tell you, he knew how to get around in his Bible backward and forward.” It wasn’t long before Howie became a Seventh-day Adventist, and was baptized in the old Madison SDA Church. Soon after that Betty became Mrs. Heisig.
When pregnant with her second child, Julie, Betty was diagnosed with Bulbar Polio. “I was really sick,” said Betty. “That was back in the day when they didn’t have therapy.” UW Hospital had an iron lung they could use with polio patients, but due to Betty’s pregnancy, they chose not to use it. “I just lived through it,” said Betty with a smile. “It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t make it. For months when I couldn’t talk, as my lungs were affected, I just repeated in my mind Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd…” That was my song and what I lived by. My baby girl was born fine, although it was a while before I was strong enough to hold her. But God saw me through polio. God probably has me here for a reason don’t you think!
Over the years, Betty was a secretary at the university, worked for the Madison Newspaper, and then AAA until retirement at age 65. Not wanting to get bored in retirement, she became a real-estate agent, got her broker certification, and sold real-estate for 15 more years, fully retiring at age 80. Several times she was questioned as to the possibility of working on Sabbath, but when it came right down to it, she was never asked to do it. Recently at a restaurant she had a chance meeting with a former manager who asked, “Are you still attending that Saturday church?” “Yes I am,” she replied with a smile. ”
In time, Betty’s husband, Howard developed Alzheimers. Betty was determined to faithfully care for him at home, which she did for 30 years until his death in 2009. “Everyone said don’t do it, it’s a real task and you’re not really that strong. Even my doctor said not to take on Howard’s care. But I think that’s what I’m here for.”
In 2016, Betty experienced congestive heart failure and after her hospitalization spent six months in a convalescent rehab home. Then she was sent home on hospice home care. Things didn’t look good, but praise the Lord she has rallied and was taken off hospice this past May, 2019. “I must be here for a reason, don’t you think?” asked Betty once again.
Why God Has Me Around
Today Betty enjoys reading the Readers Digest, doing Sudoku books, playing scrabble, listening to music, and spending time with her children grand-children and great grand-children. One great grand-child told her, “Grandma, I think it’s really something special to stay with one faith your whole life.”
Betty share’s lots of literature, and her favorite book to share with people is the Great Controversy. She has sent it to a Senator who said, “Betty, I’m half-way through reading that book, and it is so interesting! Thank you.” She’s sent copies to neighbors, pastors, work associates, and more recently, the girl who comes weekly to help with the house cleaning. “I love sharing books and talking about Jesus with anyone who might be interested,”
“I’m proud of my religion,” says Betty. “I let everyone I come in contact with know I love Jesus and try to share about my church. Honestly, I think that’s why God still has me around, to witness for Him! ‘Cuz goodness, I’m 91! Isn’t that amazing?”
Juanita Edge, Communication Director