Obituary of Elizabeth Josephine Page Bokat
Elizabeth Josephine “Betty” Page Bokat died on December 22, 2023, with her three daughters by her side. She was 87.
Betty was born in Paw Paw, West Virginia on Aunt Lulu’s kitchen table on Halloween night in 1936. At age three she moved to Dunn Loring, Virginia with her mom, Annamarie Milleson and her father, Colin Frank Page, an immigrant from England. Colin was a bricklayer by trade and moved the family after he finished building the family home. It was in Dunn Loring that her two brothers, Colin Frank and George and her sister, Marjorie were born. Betty attended K-12 in Dunn Loring. As the starting goalie of the high school field hockey team, she helped the team win the state championship.
Betty excelled in school and skipped 3rd grade. She learned to read prior to attending elementary school. Her brother George fondly remembers her reading The Yearling to him and his brother under the big oak tree in their yard while her mom was giving birth to Marjorie. Her brother Frank credits her with being the only reason he graduated high school. He was severely dyslexic and she helped him with all of his book reports.
Her father, though a pious and gentle man, was against her going to college because he felt it was not a place for women. And yet, she was determined. Betty became the first of many in her family to attend college, attending the University of Maryland and graduating with a BA in Education and later in life, earning a Masters in Early Education.
It was at the University of Maryland where she met her devoted husband of 50 years, Robert Bruce Bokat, while they were working on the set of the play South Pacific. (Jim Henson, of The Muppets, also worked on the set with them). Betty worked as a stenographer and special education teacher to help Bob through Med school.
After medical school Betty and Bob loaded up the red VW Beetle and moved to Mercer Island near Seattle, Washington, where Bob worked in the army hospital. The first of three daughters, Suzanne, was born there in 1963. Bob then entered the Public Health Service in order to complete his military service obligation. They then moved to Bryson City, North Carolina to serve the Cherokee Nation, where their second daughter, Julie was born in 1965. Betty tutored students in mathematics while Bob did his residency at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire at Mary Hitchcock Hospital. Their third daughter, Tanya, was born there in 1967. While living in Norwich, Vermont, Betty and Bob found a tribe of friends that lasted their entire lifetime.
They loved camping and when Tanya was 2 weeks old, Julie two and Suzanne four years old, they went on a camping trip in Maine. Two weeks later, they drove across the country in the family Oldsmobile, pulling a camper, to serve the Navajo Nation in Shiprock, New Mexico.
They finished their time with the United States Public Health Service and started a life in Brunswick, Maine where their wonderful, fun-loving tribe of friends grew. The family moved to Canton, New York after leaving Maine but Betty always had a fond spot in her heart for Brunswick and her friends there and so she made sure the family spent summers in nearby Mere Point for many years.
While living in Canton, Betty went into real estate, which was her passion during her adult life. She loved negotiating a deal and working behind the scenes where she could make sure all the “i”s were dotted and the “t”s crossed. Betty also loved playing the stock market and spent hours researching, discussing, buying, and selling stocks. She took great joy in providing each of her five grandchildren with what she called a “beer fund” for college. These accounts kept her “in the loop” with her grandchildren who were spread across the country. She was always on top of the stocks and kept the kids aware of what was going on and when she thought it was time to buy or sell.
Being a working mom, she eschewed the typical “mom” roles, leaving the cooking and cleaning to others and instilling in her three girls a sense of independence, hard work, persistence, and determination. She always made sure her kids got a taste of the finer things in life - dance, tennis, gymnastics, horseback riding and piano.
Betty was a force to behold if she thought someone was doing one of her daughters wrong. Educators at the elementary through college level in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont received an earful when she thought any of her girls were being mistreated.
She loved a party and hosted and co-hosted a few very memorable ones including the infamous “Preppy” party and the “Come as You’re Not” party in Canton. She loved music and had a great collection of vinyl: Tom Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Diamond, James Taylor then Bob Seger, Doby Grey, Eurythmics, Willie Nelson and the Grateful Dead. She wanted to taste it all, and dance to it all. Watching her dance to Proud Mary was a sight to behold.
Betty spent hours writing to her grandchildren and sending them little stories about their visits and special events in their lives. In a world where some grandparents barely know their grandkids, she made a great effort to keep in touch with hers.
Betty was a dedicated wife, mother and grandmother and she will be greatly missed. Betty was predeceased by her husband, Robert Bokat, MD and is survived by her three daughters, Suzanne (Stephen Hermans), Julie (John Giordano) and Tanya (David Hardy) as well as her five grandchildren, Emma, Elias, Benjamin, Cade and Ava. She is also survived by her brothers, Colin Frank and George Clarke, and sister, Marjorie, and their loving families.
During her final months, Betty required full-time care. Her dear friend Karen assembled a team of kind and patient ladies whom Betty loved. Our family will be eternally thankful for the assistance and compassion of Karen, Jasmin, Tatiana, Lexsy, Chyna, Lisa, Carol, and Lavonia.
A memorial service will be held on January 3rd at 3:30pm at Cypress Hall in Hilton Head Plantation.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests you send a donation to: Hilton Head Safe Harbour Inc., PO Box 5337, Hilton Head Island, SC 29938.