Betty Cook Rottmann
Betty Cook Rottmann was petite, but it was impossible to overlook her — and not because she was known for wearing colorful hats.
A librarian, a published poet, an activist and a mother, she was a force for change in the community.
Mrs. Rottmann died on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, in Fayetteville, Ark. She was 89.
Although she spent much of her adult life in Columbia, Mrs. Rottmann moved to Prairie Grove, Ark., to be closer to her family.
She was born on Oct. 9, 1922, in Longton, Kan., to John F. Cook Jr. and Ora Mae Allen.
Mrs. Rottmann attended Central Wesleyan College and was the first in her family to graduate from college.
In 1942, she married Leroy "Lee" Rottmann, and the couple soon moved to Columbia. On her first morning in town, she visited the Columbia Public Library and left with a job as the assistant librarian. There, she helped add a music room and children's area, where her son, Larry, frequently played.
To pursue her passion for writing, Mrs. Rottmann enrolled in MU's School of Journalism in 1957 and graduated a year later. She didn't stray far. Mrs. Rottmann worked at MU's Office of Public Information for 30 years.
Mrs. Rottmann retired at age 65, but her work didn't stop there.
Mrs. Rottmann was a founding member of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association. After she retired from her position, she was named a member emeritus and remains the only one.
Linda Rootes, the association's first president, remembers Mrs. Rottmann as a mentor.
"It was just wonderful to have her to discuss things with," Rootes said. "We went to lots of meetings and hearings together, then we'd usually go to the Dairy Queen to talk."
Rootes credits Mrs. Rottmann with introducing the idea of an arts district and recalls sending her a recent article about the district. "She emailed me back that she never could have dreamed that it would have turned out that good," Rootes said.
Between her busy days serving the Columbia community, Mrs. Rottmann assembled a collection of poems written throughout her life into a book, "Tyrant’s Tears."
For some residents, she might be better known as Amelia Bloomer, a famous women's rights advocate she re-enacted for groups and clubs around the state.
Mrs. Rottmann received the Governor's Humanities Award in 2003 for her role as Bloomer and her efforts to restore the Heibel-March store on the corner of Range Line Street and Wilkes Boulevard.
She hoped the building, just a few blocks from her home at the time, would become a meeting place in support of the local arts.
"Betty was energetic and outspoken and gracious all at the same time," Dan Cullimore, a member of the neighborhood association, said. "She believed that society had a responsibility to people and worked throughout her career to see that people's lives were made better."
She was on the Nora Stewart Early Learning Center board of directors, a member of the Women’s Democrat Club and the League of Women Voters and a volunteer at KOPN community radio.
She lived by the words her mother told her: "Service is the rent we pay for the time we've been given." And no one could deny that Mrs. Rottmann made the most of her time.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Rottmann never forgot to celebrate the good things. Every summer she hosted a fishing day to remember her husband after his death in 1990. She always sent thoughtful thank you cards, Rootes said. And she brightened each day by donning one of her famous hats.
Mrs. Rottmann is survived by a son, Larry Rottmann, of Springfield; a daughter, Tina Rottmann, and her husband, Rex Cook, of Prairie Grove, Ark.; a brother, John Fred Cook, of San Antonio, Texas; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Mrs. Rottmann's husband and two sisters, Patricia and Rosemary, died earlier.
There will be a memorial service at 2 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, 2615 Shepard Blvd.