Longtime Island resident Betsy Macdonald passed away on Sept. 25, 2022, after a battle with frontotemporal dementia. She spent her final days resting peacefully surrounded by her two sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, and family pets — including two cats, 11 chickens, and a loving German shepherd who, much to the entire family’s comfort, stayed dutifully by her side. She was loved by many, and known for her gentle, caring, sensitive, and attentive nature.
Betsy spent the last two years of her journey in Walla Walla, Wash., near her eldest son, Chris, and his family. Betsy wanted to be near her family and grandchildren, whom she loved very much. They were able to fulfill that wish, taking on the difficult task of providing her with the care and support she needed as the disease progressed.
Betsy was born in Winsted, Conn., to Roger and Barbara (Colt) McKie on March 20, 1948, where she attended the Gilbert School. After graduating, Betsy attended Vesper George School of Art in Boston, where she met Donald Combra Macdonald. Don and Betsy both transferred to Southeastern Massachusetts University in South Dartmouth, graduating with bachelors of arts in art education.
Betsy and Don married in Winsted on Sept. 7, 1969. They settled on Martha’s Vineyard to be near Don’s mother Ginnie, and Betsy took on teaching in elementary school, and met many new lifetime friends.
Betsy ultimately left teaching to help her husband run a series of shops around the island, including a pet store in Oak Bluffs called the Glass Menagerie, and most notably a 33-year run of the Scrimshander in Edgartown. Evening walkers would stop on the sidewalk after catching a glimpse of her studiously etching scrimshaw through the uniquely designed front window display. Betsy specialized in scrimshaw flowers, and developed a technique for doing unusual full-color designs that attracted curious visitors and Islanders alike. She would maintain this artistic passion throughout her lifetime, creating custom signs and small designs for her friends and family.
As retirement loomed, her eldest son Chris encouraged Betsy to become an EMT and volunteer with the Tri-Town Ambulance Service, serving Islanders with contentment for many years. Betsy took great pride in her call sign, Charlie 98. When she was no longer running calls herself, this enthusiasm shifted to the new generations of EMTs by bringing her energy (and lots of treats) to training classes.
Betsy was an avid supporter of nature and animals throughout her lifetime. She supported all kinds of rescue and rehabilitation organizations. She cared for a multitude of stray and injured critters over the years, many times to the dismay of her own pets, who didn’t always share the same sentiment. Her connection with these creatures was a profound example of her true self, trusting demeanor, and unrelenting desire to make the world a better place.
Betsy is survived by her two sons, Chris Macdonald of Walla Walla, and Jared Macdonald of San Jose, Cailf.; her daughters-in-law, Emily and Elise; her two grandchildren, Cooper and Daphne; and her older brother, Dick McKie. Betsy was preceded in death by her husband of 49 years, Don, and her brother Bob McKie. On and off the Island, Betsy leaves behind lifelong friends and colleagues who will remember her for her caring and hopeful nature.
In her memory, in lieu of flowers, we suggest you donate to your favorite animal sanctuary, rescue, or rehabilitation center. She would want you to step outside to find peace and beauty in the world right outside your front door.
An informal celebration of Betsy’s life will be held when her family can gather together on the island, likely next spring.