Marcelene Elizabeth Bergen, known throughout her life as “Betsy,” passed away at her home in Topeka, Kansas on Monday evening, January 9, attended by family. She was 88 years old.
Betsy was born in Osage County, Kansas on May 12, 1928 to Walter Thomas “Tad” Clark and Aleatha Mae Tyner, the youngest of three children. Her childhood was one of rural, depression-era poverty and hardship, but one which deeply valued family, education, and hard work.
With these values, Betsy attended grade school at a small, one-room country schoolhouse. She graduated from Appanoose High School in 1945. She went on to become a first-generation college graduate, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Psychology at Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas in 1949. As a student, Betsy gained a Kansas state teaching certification and began teaching in rural, Kansas public schools in 1945, a career that would last for 18 years.
During her time as a student and teacher, Betsy married a young WWII Navy veteran, David Earl Moberly, on August 31, 1947. They had two children, Joe and Alan, as they both pursued advanced college degrees and careers in education. Betsy earned a Master’s in Family and Child Development in 1964 and began teaching at Kansas State University in 1965, where she would eventually earn a PhD and become a professor of Human Ecology and remain for 41 years.
In a time of great change and political controversy, Betsy organized and taught the first course on Human Sexuality at KSU in the 1970s, a course which quickly became popular and which she taught for four decades. Her research focused on human sexuality, health and AIDS education, marriage and family relationships, and single parent and reconstituted families. Nationally and internationally recognized as an AIDS educator and speaker, she conducted sexuality and AIDS education in China, Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, and Canada. She also served for a time as president of the Kansas Council on Family Relations.
In the meantime, Betsy and David separated, and she remarried to Gerald Roy Bergen on 30 June 1967. The two dedicated their lives to bringing their two families together, raising her two children and Jerry’s three, Kevin, Kirsten, and Jeri Sue, together.
Betsy retired in 2005 after 41 years of teaching at Kansas State University and turned to spending time with family and to her long-time hobby: quilting. She was an award-winning quilter, for years an active member of the Kansas Capital Quilters Guild in Topeka.
She is survived by three children, Alan (Dianna) Moberly of Topeka, Kirsten Bergen of Seneca, and Jeri (Tasha) James of Lawrence; grandchildren, David (Delaney) Moberly, Aleatha (Samuel) Shannon, Joseph (Erin) Moberly, Mary (Chris) Koeven, Emma Moberly, Benjamin Moberly, Rebecca Moberly, Jeremy (Debbie) Bergen, Chris (Anna) Bergen, Kendra Volz, Justin (Rachel) and Travis (Andrea) James; as well as 18 great-grandchildren.
She is preceded in death by her parents and two siblings, Walter and Gwendolyn; her husband, Gerald Bergen; and two sons, Joe Moberly and Kevin Bergen.
Funeral services will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Monday, January 16, 2017 at Penwell-Gabel Southwest Chapel, 3700 SW Wanamaker Road, Topeka. The family will greet friends one hour prior to the service.
Burial will follow in the Overbrook Cemetery.
Memorial contributions in Betsy’s honor may be made to the M. Betsy Bergen Teaching Excellence Fund, College of Human Ecology, Kansas State University Foundation, 1800 Kimball Avenue, Suite 200, Manhattan, Kansas 66502 or Topeka Civic Theatre, 3028 SW 8th Street, Topeka, KS 66606 or to the Alzheimer’s Association, 3625 SW 29th Street, Suite 102, Topeka, KS 66614.
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