We all lost a strong, courageous woman on May 19, 2021. Elizabeth Burrowes Vierra was born on July 28,1937. Bette, as she became known, lived a life full of twists and turns that played out more like a bestselling novel, but was a life grounded in what makes life most meaningful: love, faith, family, and determination.
Born as an only child to Robert Jamieson and Dorothy Burrowes in Oakland, CA, Bette
was raised by maternal grandparents and her aunt and uncle. Driven by her love of learning, she graduated from Hayward High in the Bay Area and went on to Cal Berkeley. During this era of the late 50s and early 60s, Bette became an avid Civil Rights activist and began cultivating her lifelong mission and calling to serve others, fight for equality and justice, and make the world a better place, despite how she often found her own life.
Bette married her high school sweetheart, Ken Vierra Sr. and began their life as a young couple in Salt Lake City, Utah where Ken was finishing out his University of Utah football career. Bette and Ken began their family that eventually blessed them with five children. They raised their children in both California and Utah, until they settled into their family home in the Holladay area of Salt Lake City.
Bette raised her family in the Catholic faith, a faith that she remained dedicated to for her lifetime. Her faith was rich, deep, and active. She was a member of St. Ambrose parish council, a room parent at adjacent JE Cosgriff School, and a die-hard athletic booster and fundraiser for Judge Memorial Catholic High School- gifting all five of her children with a solid, Catholic education. Times were often lean, but Bette provided a home that was abundant with love, great food, and friends and family to share it with.
Bette and Ken divorced in 1978. It was at this same time that she learned she had four half-siblings in her life, right when she needed them the most! Bette went on to become close to all four of her siblings as if they had grown up together, cultivating a bond she was very proud of and grateful for. Bette was also reunited with her father Robert. They were able to share a short time together prior to his death. Robert passed on to Bette his Irish heritage that he was very proud of. She embraced this new found identity and found a home with the Salt Lake Hibernian Society. From this point forward, Bette proudly shared with everyone that she was Irish!
Bette began her professional career on the staff of the Crossroads Urban Center, a Salt Lake City agency helping the underserved and marginalized where she had volunteered for years. Bette then moved on to the United Way as an allocations director. She finished her professional years as the Executive Director of the Association for Utah Community Health, where she served in that role for many years, until 2011 when she retired.
Bette loved retirement. It was very common to see her in her gardens, nurturing her prize plants, or on the golf course. She also loved to travel. Bette generously instituted the tradition of taking each of her five children on a trip during these memorable years. She visited Paris, the former Gullah slave region of South Carolina, New Orleans, and Alaska. These trips provided Bette and her five children with treasured memories that will forever be etched in their hearts and minds.
Bette leaves behind her five children, Susan (Dan), Douglas (Stephanie), Kenneth (Andreanna), Christina (David), and Patricia. Her memory lives on with her 18 grandchildren, 10 great grandchildren, and many more beloved family members and friends. All of Bette’s family extends heartfelt gratitude and thanks to the entire staff and all caregivers at The Ridge Foothill, along with Canyon Hospice, especially her nurse Heidi and her loving aide Karley.
To celebrate Bette’s life, a Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, June 14th at 11:00 AM at St. Ambrose Parish, 2315 E. Redondo Ave., Salt Lake City. The Funeral Mass and Graveside Service may be viewed by clicking the buttons along the upper-left. The Reception highlights can be viewed by clicking here. She will be laid to rest at Mount Calvary Catholic Cemetery, 4th Ave. and “T” St.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution to Utah Navajo Health System in Bette’s honor. UNHS provides medical, dental and behavioral health care to Utah Navajo. Donations can be made at unhsinc.org or mailed to: Utah Navajo Health System P.O. Box 130, Montezuma Creek, UT 84534.