Obituary: Betty Carlson

By Hannah Hawkinson

SOUTH BEND, IN (June 6, 2020) – Elizabeth “Betty” Carlson, wife of the late Covenant pastor John Carlson and champion of women’s ministry with a decades-long legacy of service to the Evangelical Covenant Church, died on May 3 in South Bend, Indiana. She was 96.

The only child of David and Emily (Freiberg) Carlson, Betty was born on August 12, 1923, in Chicago. She was baptized and confirmed at Edgewater Covenant Church. She graduated from North Park Academy in 1940 and North Park Junior College in 1942, then went on to serve as a secretary at the Evangelical Covenant Church’s denominational headquarters.

She married John Carlson on January 17, 1948. Together they served churches in Lowell, Massachusetts; Staten Island, New York; Stromsburg, Nebraska; Essex, Iowa; and South Bend, Indiana.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s degree in library science from Indiana University. She was a school librarian for the South Bend Community School Corporation for 11 years.

Active within Covenant Women, Betty served for several years on the CW board when it was a national organization. In 1979, as board president, she helped guide its transition to a department within the Covenant Church, and became the first chair of the denominational Board of Women’s Work. She was also one of the first women elected to the Executive Board of Covenant Church. Last summer, at age 95, Betty became the only person to have attended all 16 Covenant Women Triennial conferences.

A member of Covenant Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, Betty was a teacher, choir member, and advocate for women’s ministries and served on a variety of committees.

She was preceded in death by her husband, John, in 2006.

She is survived by her children, Beverly Gillespie (Monte), Timothy Carlson (Ann), Sharon Carlson, and Sonia Watson (Robert); four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on August 8 at Covenant Community Church in South Bend. Memorial contributions may be made to Covenant Community Church, 3025 E. Edison Rd., South Bend, IN 46615, or to the John and Betty Carlson Scholarship Fund at North Park University, 3225 W. Foster Avenue, Box 6, Chicago, IL 60625.

Peace be to her memory.


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  1. I thank God for Betty and John Carlson’s warm hospitality the first Sunday I ever visited a Covenant church (in South Bend, Indiana). They invited me out to lunch and then later to a wonderful pot roast meal in their home, a real treat for a graduate student living alone for the first time. Their kindness and encouragement and friendship continued through the years as I went on to seminary and then into ministry. I saw how Betty touched many, many lives with the love of Jesus, including mine. Praise the Lord for Betty and peace and comfort to her children.

  2. Betty has been a hero of mine for years. She is a wonderful example of focused leadership and has been an inspirational ministry spouse. Her presence will surely be missed at future Triennial gatherings. Peace to her memory.

  3. Recalling with gratitude serving with Betty on the Women’s History Commission of the Covenant Church for several years. Condolences to her family.

  4. Rest In Peace and rise in glory, dear Betty. You were the dearest and strongest of souls for Jesus.

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