Obituary: Mary Elizabeth Wickes

December 3, 1944 – May 9, 2022

Mary Elizabeth Wickes, a/k/a Betsy/Auntie Mopsy, departed for her last journey on May 09, 2022, in Seattle, WA.  Betsy was a World War II baby, born on December 3, 1944, to Navy Commander John F. Wickes, on assignment in the European theatre, and Winifred G. Wickes, in Portsmouth, VA. 

The family moved post-war to Miami, FL, where John began his career as a pilot with Pan American World Airways.  Three of Betsy’s siblings, Jack, Cecelia and Nancy, were born in Miami. The family relocated to Long Island, NY, and finally to Randolph Township, NJ, where Betsy’s youngest sibling, Stephen, was born.  

She graduated from Dover High School in 1962. Betsy headed off on her first solo adventure at the University of Idaho, where she studied home economics and Spanish. There she joined the Campus Union Party and the Debaters Club and developed lifelong friendships. In 1966 she graduated from the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Miami and began a 53-year career as a flight attendant and purser with Pan Am and United Airlines, traveling throughout the world. 

Work routes in Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Europe were supplemented by vacations all over the world, safari, and pyramids in Africa, an environmental tour of the Galápagos Islands, annual theatre trips to London, museums in Paris, Hobbiton in New Zealand, the Panda Breeding Center in China – she visited all seven continents. Many things brought joy to Betsy. 

NPR was her constant companion wherever possible, opera anywhere she could find it, and theatre of all genres. Newspapers, in which she always found amusing articles or ads.  Searching for, and finding great bargains. Good food of all kinds. Siamese jewelry, introduced to Betsy by her father, became a treasure to find and share. She loved penguins. All penguins. 

In between flights, Betsy lived in Seattle, the city she loved, and traveled around the US to visit her 11 “niblings”, the
children of her brothers and sisters.  Auntie Mopsy was a loving, eccentric, challenging presence in their lives… creator
of wonderful Halloween costumes and Christmas stockings, a cheerleader at soccer and hockey games, a glamorous date when needed, and an enthusiastic attendee for plays, debates, and concerts.  

Cooking lessons, museum visits, and expeditions of all kinds were de rigeur when Auntie Mopsy visited.  And with her came the magic suitcase… always containing something unusual.  Australian butter.  Chinese pupus.  Bizarre find it’s from the rummage sales she loved.  

Artwork, framed in Beijing.  And even, on one occasion, a melon.  She taught all of the niblings the joy of traveling, the value of exploring, the worth of trying new things, and the art of packing.  These were put to good use on solo Mopsy nibling trips to London, Paris, Baltimore, and Washington DC. Betsy retired from United Airlines with plans for more family visits, increased social activity with the World Wings International, Northwestern Chapter, Soup and Cinema at the Nordic Heritage Center, garden parties with friends, “treasure” hunting, and continued travel adventures, all of which were put on hold by the coronavirus pandemic. She gracefully adjusted from world traveler and social butterfly to being house-bound by the pandemic, and was able to maintain her quirky sense of humor, but she missed the active life she was used to and seeing her family, especially her niblings.

Betsy was predeceased by her parents, John and Winifred.  

She is survived by her brothers, Jack (Julia) of Indianapolis, IN, and Stephen (Lisa) Wickes of Bloomington, IN; her sisters, Cecelia (David) Knapp of Bloomington, IN, and Nancy Volpe of Albuquerque; and her beloved niblings, Katie Conovitz (Brandon), Michelle Roe (Brad), Elizabeth Knapp, Maggie Wickes (Kevin Callahan), Adrienne Knapp, Andrew Volpe, Anna Brodie (Andy), Teresa Volpe, Matthew Wickes (Samantha), Hilary Wickes (Justin Bailey), and Caroline Wickes. “Griblings” (great nephews/nieces) Sawyer, Coco, Jack and Asher Conovitz, Henry, Augustus, Ulysses, and Wilma Roe, Vivi and Chip Callahan, Winnie Volpe, Oscar Brodie, Josephine Wickes, and Walden Bailey also survive, along with her many dear friends.  

Burial will be at Valhalla Gardens in Bloomington, IN, next to her parents, and a memorial service will be held at a future date. Memories and messages can be left at

In lieu of flowers, donations to KUOW Public Radio, 4518 University Way NE, Seattle WA 98105 (“In memory of Betsy Wickes,”) ( and the Pan Am Historical Foundation ( would please Betsy. Her headstone, at her request, will portray the Seattle Space Needle and the Pan Am 707, her favorite jet. Betsy was never boring and certainly never average… she was truly a unique spirit.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Ferguson-Lee Chapel of Thorne-George Family Funeral Homes in Bedford.