I never called Betty Dancer “Mrs. Dancer” in my youth or “Betty” once I reached adulthood.
She was and forever will be “Princess.”
She was the wife of the late Don “Prince Preston” Dancer and the mother of my closest friend, Craig. While I have the greatest sister in the world, Craig is the brother I never had. In fact, we call each other “brother” on occasion, it just seems that real.
On Saturday I traveled to my hometown of Independence, Kansas, to say goodbye to “Princess” for the final time. God called her home last week after she had been in failing health for the past several months after 84 wonderful years on Earth. She had moved from Independence to North Carolina a time back as Craig and his lovely wife, Linda, had been taking care of her.
The graveside service was short and beautiful. It was an intimate gathering, probably no more than 30 people. But it was perfect.
Craig and I have been lifelong friends. We attended the same church growing up and while we didn’t go to the same grade school, we were classmates beginning in junior high. Our parents were very close and did a lot of things together. “The Prince” and my Dad were on the same Friday Night League golf team for years.
“Princess” was an amazing lady — beautiful, caring, smart and funny. She was the brains behind the operation at Kansas Gas and Electric. She was tremendously respected in the community and in our church as she was active to make Independence a better place.
As Craig and I were growing up, let’s just say we got into a lot of mischief along with our other friends. “Princess” would often just shake her head and wonder what she was going to do with us. But she never judged us and we all considered her like a second mother.
For me, that became a realization in 1995. After a long battle with cancer that ravaged her body, my mother was called home on May 20, far too early as she had many more years to give.
I thought I made it through her funeral remarkably well. I know how Mom felt about crying and I did my best to keep it in. But when “Princess” came through the line to greet the family, I just let it all go. “Princess” knew how close I was to my mother as she was my best friend.
“Princess” then became like my second mother. Every once in a while she would call just to check and see how I was doing. When I came home to visit my Dad, I would barely hit the door when he would say that we had to go see the Dancers.
I made it a point every time I went to Independence to see them. There were times when “Prince” would say to me, “Don’t you have a home? If so, go there!” “Princess” would just laugh and say that their home was my home.
“Princess” also would check up on Dad when he started to fail in health. She would call and tell me, “I think you need to come see your Dad. He’s been down and I’m sure you would pep him up.”
As “Princess’” service ended, I was able to chat with three of my closest friends from high school. Teresa Crawford, who I’ve only seen a couple of times in the last 35 years, said something that really caused me to think. She noted that we’re now the oldest of our generation, as many of the parents of my friends were joined this week by “Princess.” It’s a rather sobering thought, even though I believe all of us still have many good years left.
“Princess” this isn’t goodbye. I will see you some time in the future and we’ll pick up where we left off.