Betty B. Scher, a nurse who was known to family and friends as having boundless energy and a lifelong thirst for knowledge, died Nov. 13 at her home. The Baltimore resident was 87.
When her children told extended family members she had died, few believed them, according to her son, David Scher. She was the nurse her colleagues at Sinai Hospital called the "bionic woman" after she decided to walk to work during a blizzard because she believed people needed her. She was in her 60s at the time, Mr. Scher said.
Born in Baltimore, Mrs. Scher graduated from Western High School. Her father told her she should enroll at Goucher College, but she went behind his back, applied and enrolled at the College of William and Mary.
"She was fiercely independent," daughter-in-law Danielle Ewen said.
After graduation she enrolled in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, where she met her future husband, Sidney Scher. At the time, she was one of the school's few Jewish students, her family said. She dedicated her life to nursing, becoming president of the Johns Hopkins Nurses Alumni Association in 1969, volunteering with hospice patients and educating nursing students.
She served as editor of the alumni association's magazine, Vigilando, and was on the committee that published a volume of "The History of Johns Hopkins."
She was chair of the 50th reunion committee for her nursing class and, in 2000, was awarded the Johns Hopkins Heritage Award, given to alumni who have contributed much to the university and its alumni association. She was working with the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing on an archival project even up to the last week of her life, her family said.
In 1991, when she was in her 60s, she earned a master's degree in management from the University of Notre Dame. It was about the same time her son, Bob Scher, and future daughter-in-law Mrs. Ewen were trying to earn their master's degrees.
"She was like this her entire life," David Scher said. "There was rarely a time when she wasn't going to school to get another degree."
She went to night school and took classes even as she became a single mother — her husband died in 1977 when their youngest son, Bob Scher, was 10.
She put her children through college, and all have also earned master's degrees. An undistinguished cook, she took it upon herself to improve and studied recipes until her family said she became masterful in the kitchen — though they noted she was always experimenting, trying out such strange concoctions as "eggplant caviar."
"She studied and attacked it with the same philosophy she did other things," David Scher said.
She even had a recipe for oatmeal cookies printed in Bon Appetit magazine, he said. Her grandchildren always looked forward to "Grandma toast," which is what they called her French toast.
She retired about three times, but was never able to stay at home.
"One of the times she retired was because my sister had an infant and gave birth to twins," Mr. Scher said. She spent most of her week helping her daughter with the children.
She had incredible energy throughout her life, her children said. Nearly until her death, she played soccer and baseball with her grandchildren. She played with her pets. And at 81, she went white water rafting in New Mexico with her grandchildren.
"She was active, she was fit, she wanted to be part of her grandchildren's lives in a way that was meaningful to them," Mrs. Ewen said.
She was in her 80s when she drove from Baltimore to North Carolina to visit Mr. Scher. She later gave up driving, not because her reaction skills had diminished but because her family worried about her.
She remained sharp all her life, devouring book after book and exercising her mind with crossword puzzles and other games.
"She did hospice care for a really long time," Mrs. Ewen said of her mother-in-law's volunteer work. "She never thought she was old like those people. She was the living embodiment of someone who was young at heart."
A memorial service was held Friday, Nov. 15, at Sol Levinson and Bros. funeral home.
In addition to her sons, David Scher of North Carolina and Bob Scher of Washington, D.C., Mrs. Scher is survived by her daughters, Linda of New Mexico and Susan of Baltimore, and five grandchildren.