Bette Jean McLaughlin


Bette Jean McLaughlin, 87, peacefully passed away Sunday, March 6, 2022 at Green House Living for Sheridan. Bette was born in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on September 29, 1934 to Albert and Carolyn (Passer) Wikan. The importance of a good education was stressed early on in her home and Bette became a true bibliophile, a lover of books, a hobby that would remain a constant throughout her life.  She studied hard and was active in many extra curricular clubs throughout her years at Eau Claire High School. After graduating a year earlier than many of her friends, Bette set off for college before her 17th birthday. She had decided to become a teacher and was lucky enough to land her first elementary teaching job in Beloit, WI immediately after graduating college. She had a creative streak and a way with children that made it fun and easy for them to learn. Over her lifetime, Bette taught full time or did substitute teaching and taught hundreds of children to read.

In 1955, Bette met and fell in love with James McLaughlin (Jim). She played third base with her women’s softball team while Jim, sitting in the stands one summer night, asked her out on a date. That first date turned into a short courtship and a June wedding. Once married, Bette began teaching in the Eau Claire school system, with her areas of specialty being in Speech Therapy and Special Education. She became an enthusiastic and creative educator, volunteering to chaperone at Par-te-Recdances, and working as the kindergarten teacher at Southside School in Chippewa Falls. Bette and Jim lived in Eau Claire and began raising their family. In addition to teaching and raising a rather large family, Bette went back to college and received her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin-EC in 1969. She and Jim were members of Lake Street United Methodist Church and were active in the community throughout their years in Eau Claire.

In 1975, the family moved to Hot Springs, South Dakota, where Jim had taken a job with the Burlington Northern Railroad. After several years there, they were transferred to Sheridan, Wyoming, and they bought a house in Big Horn. Bette continued teaching, this time for Sheridan County school district. She taught at Story School. As she grew older, she did more and more substitute teaching and found the older kids as enjoyable as the little ones she’d taught her entire adult life. She became a big fan of the Sheridan Broncs and knew many of the players by name. She had fun cheering on her sons as they played basketball and was her children’s greatest supporter. One of Bette’s favorite outings in later years was a night of watching the SHS Broncs play football with her son from the sidelines of the football field. She loved nothing more than to shout BINGO on bingo night at Holy Name Church and thoroughly enjoyed an ice cream consolation prize when she didn’t.

Bette had many hobbies and mastered nearly anything she’d try. In her younger days, it was softball and bowling, and in her 40’s, she was winning doubles matches in tennis when she was still new to the sport. She loved to knit and one of her greatest joys was knitting mittens, slippers, and the most beautiful sweaters for her family and friends. Her hands were always busy, sometimes with several projects going on at once. Bette was an exceptional cook and baker and canned vegetables from her own garden. She enjoyed traveling. She went to the Wimbledon one year and then to Tokyo with her youngest daughter; she and Jim traveled to England, Costa Rica, and her favorite place of all, Norway, before Jim’s death in 1997.

Bette is survived by all five of her children; Jamie Peterson (Brad), Silver Gate, MT., Mike McLaughlin (Cristine), Sheridan, WY., Cal McLaughlin (Becky), Wasilla, AK., Brian McLaughlin (Jenny), Spotted Horse, WY., and Megan Shamji, Williston, ND. She is also survived by her sister, Shirley Battley, Pascagoula, MS., nine grandchildren, two great grandchildren, the many children she loved, taught, and advocated for over the years, and numerous friends and extended family members. Arrangements are being made with Champion Funeral Home of Sheridan. Online condolences may be written at Donations can be made in lieu of flowers to Green House Living of Sheridan, 2311 Shirley Cove, Sheridan, WY 82801, in Bette McLaughlin’s name.

Service: Thursday, July 21, 2022

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