Elizabeth Jane Lorenz Starr


Elizabeth Jane Lorenz Starr (26 July, 1930- 22 Aug, 2019) passed peacefully at home after a long illness. She was devoted to her family and church. She is the widow of the late Richard Granville Starr, MD, (1925-2004) and has resided in Beckley, West Virginia, since 1958.
Born in New Jersey, 26 July 1930, Betty was raised by parents who nurtured her love of culture and books. An only child, she grew up in Irvington, NJ,
surrounded by many cousins and dogs. They spent summers at the shore and she fondly remembered large family picnics, singing together, and long walks on the wide white sandy beach. Her beloved father Stephen John Lorenz was a lawyer and elected judge educated at Columbia University and Harvard Law School where he was a member of the Lincoln Law Club. He had arrived in 1903 at age six to Ellis Island immigrating from Poland on the SS Bulgaria. He survived the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1917, and after WWI was chosen as a law student to attend the discussions in Paris during the Treaty of Versailles. He became an expert in labor law, defending the rights of workers. He nurtured Betty's love of all things with father/daughter trips each weekend into New York City to visit museums and the Metropolitan Opera. Each trip would end at the top of the Empire State Building to view the sunset. He was proud to be an American and taught Betty the value of freedom and voting, politics and law, as well as a deep appreciation of her European heritage and Catholic religion. Her mother Victoria was a schoolteacher who also loved the opera and was a talented oil painter. After her parents had died in a flu epidemic, Victoria was raised in Carteret, NJ, by a distinguished Catholic priest Father Dziadosj who founded the Holy Cross School to educate young Polish immigrants about their old world traditions while preparing them with English for a new life. Betty's Aunt Bertha was a gourmet cook at his rectory which held large weekly banquets with fellow priests speaking in Latin and Greek. Father Dziadosj introduced Betty's parents to one another. These people instilled in her a deep respect for human dignity and the importance of education. She spoke fondly of these memories in her last months.
Betty attended Bryn Mawr College and graduated in 1952 with a degree in English which led to her great love of literature. In her senior year, she met her husband-to-be Richard at the theater in Philadelphia. He helped her to her seat.
As a veteran of WWII and a gifted young medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, he nursed Betty through a serious bout of pneumonia coming by train to cure her with the first Sulfa drugs while she was still in college. Richard joked that these trips standing on the cold train platform made him bald - it froze his hair off. They married later that year. She worked briefly as an editor's assistant at the Ladies Home Journal, which featured their wedding photograph tossing her bouquet. He returned to West Virginia where they built a life together in Beckley blessed with three children and his thriving medical practice. Betty's intelligence and charm and passion for education was poured into the community. She founded the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia in 1974, persuading Mayor McCullough to give her an old railroad car as its first home in New River Park. She and a group of women friends founded a Book Club nearly 25 years ago which met monthly. Betty worked as a boardmember with Sharon Rockefeller on early efforts to support Public TV and Radio in West Virginia. She founded the Great Books Program for public elementary schools with Principal Clyde Law to supplement English curriculum for avid readers. Her first afterschool classroom for such book discussions was in the janitors closet, so she met amidst the Pinesol scented mop heads to introduce young readers to Chaucer's medieval English. Her daughter remembers these sessions at Crescent Grade school. Into her early 80s, she tutored young readers at the Public Library.
Betty was active in St. Stephens Church, worshipping twice weekly and gathering donations of clothes, items for needy families, and toys for tots each Christmas. It is told that she ran up to the steps of the church in joy when she discovered it upon moving here. She belonged to the Women's Club Of Beckley and The Women's Medical Association for the wives of doctors. Her lifelong subscription to The New York Times Sunday edition used to be delivered four days later to Virgil's Newsstand on Wednesdays. Betty enjoyed weekend hiking in the woods with her children and her husband Richard as he photographed rare wildflowers. Betty loved cooking, friends, fashion, and design. She designed their modernist house in 1962 with architect Donald Stark. Based on a prototype for an early environmental house designed by The Cambridge Five, she adapted it to a hillside site plan. This home on Skyline Drive where she lived for 57 years has always been her pride and joy. Large windows overlook nature and gentle West Virginia hills. She was blessed to remain at home until the end of her days.
She is survived by her three children: Richard Starr, Jr., Mark Starr, and Stephanie McCormick-Goodhart. She has eight grandchildren living internationally. Her first great grandchild is expected in a few weeks. A memorial service will follow. St Stephens Episcopal Church was a huge part of her life. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Hospice of Southern West Virginia, P.O. Box 1472, Beckley, WV 25802-1472, www.hospiceofsouthernwv.org.
Online condolences may be left at www.calfeefh.com.
Arrangements by Calfee Funeral Home.
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Published on August 24, 2019
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Calfee Funeral Home
Aug 24, 2019