Elizabeth “Betsy” Chapman Vignato
When she was 12, Betsy's 16-year old brother John offered to take her from their home in Newport, Rhode Island, to Manhattan for a weekend with their uncle and aunt, but when it came time for the bus to pull away, Betsy started to cry. John told her, "Stop crying, or get off the bus." This was the motto Betsy lived up to every day of her life, until her passing at 90. Betsy had that New England steel - went cold turkey from Camel cigarettes in one week in her youth, and never smoked again - but also had a remarkable talent for connecting with everyone she met, putting people at ease and recognizing the special something in everyone. Betsy was born on June 13, 1929, into an austere New England home, the second child of John and Pauline (Houghton) Haire. As a young woman she learned she was born only one day after Anne Frank, which made her strongly aware of the vagaries of fate and fortune that exist in life, and the need to work hard to make the most of opportunities that come along. One of these was the chance to join her brother in Boston, where he was studying after the war, at Harvard Law School - Betsy landed a job with Harvard's Personnel Offices. This, in turn - due to the glowing recommendation of her boss led to admission to the Harvard Radcliffe Business Program. There followed a career in executive recruiting in Manhattan. In January 1961 Betsy married Peter Chapman, a kama'aina boy who found himself a New York banker but, shortly after they wed, came to his senses and became a doctoral student in anthropology at Stanford and an archaeologist at The Bishop Museum. Betsy first visited Hawaii in June of 1956 as a guest of the kama'aina von Holt and Malotte families but, after meeting and marrying Peter, they moved to Kailua with two young sons in January 1966, living initially in a Quonset hut before moving to 82 South Kalaheo. Her strength was tested when Peter fell gravely ill at 40 with hepatitis C, from which he never recovered, passing away in 1978 at the age of 48. Living up to her motto, she raised her boys with love, grace and affection, making certain life continued as always, even ignoring a ruptured appendix for a full two weeks, until finally agreeing to consult a doctor - she was too busy to be sick, darn it! Betsy's intelligence, gift for organization, and natural ability with people led her to begin a volunteer career with the Honolulu Symphony, starting with The Women's Organization and rising, by the late 1970s, to become the Symphony's first female President. Throughout her career at the Symphony she worked tirelessly to ensure the financial stability and quality of the orchestra as a core community resource worthy of an international city like Honolulu; and assisted in attracting star performers such as Aaron Copeland, Van Cliburn, Luciano Pavarotti, Dave Brubeck, Beverly Sills, and Ella Fitzgerald. For those who believe in karma, it was therefore fitting that, after years of giving to others, she was blessed to marry Lee Vignato, a fellow East Coast transplant who came to the islands in the late 1960s. Married in 1988, the two of them enjoyed 31 years of a marriage that, to those around them, served as the very model of what a loving, strong, and supportive union was meant to be. In her final years, despite several physical setbacks, Betsy remained indomitable, self-deprecating, and wry in the face of the indignities of the degeneration of the physical. Betsy - mother, community advocate, writer of odes, occasional supernumerary in the opera - serves as a model of New England determination and grit, mixed with island compassion, a concern for others, and a healthy sense of humor about life, and herself. She will be sorely missed. She is survived by her husband Lee, her sons Geoffrey (Emma) and Matthew (Nicole), and her three grandchildren. Services will be held at Saint Clement's Church at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 7, 2020, with a reception to follow in the Parish Hall. Donations to North Hawaii Hospice or the Hawaii Symphony.
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased