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'I wish I could call her right now and hear her laugh…'

'I wish I could call her right now and hear her laugh…'

From the The cost of COVID: Remembering lives lost in Southeast Nebraska series
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Beth Smith reconnected with Daryl Ebert at their 20th class reunion and they married a year later — Dec. 30, 1995 — a date chosen so she could invite her many friends who would be in town for the holidays.

They lived in his house. A house with a backyard filled with poppies.

That was the start of the annual spring Poppy Party.

And Beth loved parties.

The woman with a wavy mane of red hair, was social and fun, adventurous and accepting.

“She brought people together,” said Mary Knight, her longtime friend. “She was my wing person in a lot of situations.”

The pair met in ninth grade at Lincoln Pius X. After graduation, they were regulars at the Zoo Bar’s FAC. They danced together to their favorite bands.

“She was a social butterfly,” Mary said. “Family was really important to her. She had nieces and nephews she was really close to.”

Erin Egan is one of those nieces. She penned her aunt’s obituary.

“Beth traveled the globe,” she wrote, “taking a bus through Mexico, camping in the Colorado mountains and dining in the Swiss Alps. She loved to see the world and made new friends wherever she landed.”

Beth, only 10 years older, was the “aunt you wanted to hang out with,” Erin said.

And they did.

Aunt Beth took her nephew Patrick camping and she introduced Erin to the Drumstick bar — when she was too young to get in legally. They went to concerts, listened to the blues at the Zoo, saw Prince in Omaha.

She was close to her siblings Mike and Mary. A confidante to those nieces and nephews.

“She was definitely someone to look up to," Erin said. "It’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t feel like she’s gone yet.”

The 64-year-old had a master’s degree in planning and her last job was at UNL Extension, working out of Syracuse.

But she’d had lots of jobs, Daryl said. One of her favorites was at Lake Yellowstone Hotel in the ’80s, where she worked as the assistant food and beverage manager.

They both loved the outdoors and took trips to beautiful places. Estes Park was at the top of the list.

The pair liked snooping through flea markets and gazing at art.

Beth was diagnosed with dementia in 2011 — struggling to find words and put sentences together. She stayed at home as her memory declined, watched over by Daryl and, in later years, Dee, an in-home helper.

She still knew her people — still declared her love for them — and her face brightened when she saw them.

But when Daryl was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in early 2020, his surgeon told him he wouldn’t be up to caretaking, so he found a place for Beth at High Plains Memory Care. And by the time he recovered from treatment, pandemic restrictions meant the only way to see his wife and best friend was through a window.

So he stayed away.

“I wanted to touch her,” he said. “I didn’t want to cause more anxiety for her.”

He thought they’d be able to reunite in person. She got her first vaccine in December, but several days later, she tested positive for COVID.

She went to the hospital and then came back to her room to hospice care. She died Jan. 20.

Erin got to come and sit at her bedside.

“She wasn’t in the best of health in the past few years,” Erin wrote later on Facebook. “But COVID-19 was what took our Bethie up to the Heavens. Damn. She was simply too young and I wish I could call her right now and hear her laugh …”

— Cindy Lange-Kubick

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