Betty Lorraine (DiMarzio) Pirkheim Elm, 84, a resident of Claremont Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Carlisle, Pennsylvania passed away on Sunday, July 17, 2016 after a prolonged illness. The daughter of the late August and Anna Marie (Battistone) DiMarzio of Ambridge, she was born on Sunday, August 2, 1931.
A 1949 graduate of Ambridge High School, Betty excelled in the arts, especially music and dance. She completed a six-month course at Duff's Iron City Business College and was hired by Spang, Chalfant & Company as a payroll clerk. She worked there for two years before marrying Frank L. Pirkheim on August 11, 1951. Their wedding took place in the Ambridge Presbyterian Church on Maplewood Avenue where Frank served as a deacon.
Betty was a natural homemaker with talents that were varied and exceptional. She painted, wallpapered, and could wire and hang a chandelier as deftly as she could make a Chanel suit. Sewing was her special talent followed by her cooking. She also enjoyed baking bread, a family specialty handed down by her mother whose family had owned and operated a bakery in Ellsworth, Pennsylvania in the early 1900s.
In 1956, while raising their family of three, she enrolled in an accredited cosmetology school in Aliquippa, graduating with a teaching certification and obtaining licenses for both practicing and teaching hairstyling and cosmetology. The family moved to Broad Street in Leetsdale and extensively remodeled the home to accommodate Betty's business goal of salon ownership. In 1960, Betty opened Fashion Flair Beauty Salon and over the next ten years provided patrons from the surrounding communities the finest hair and beauty services in the area. Betty embraced her profession with great enthusiasm and strived to be up-to-date with the latest hair, fashion, and beauty trends. To that end, she and her patron models competed in the New York International Beauty Shows alongside iconic stylists Kenneth and Vidal Sassoon.
As dedicated as she was to her chosen profession, she was first and foremost a loving, supportive mother to her three children. She was actively involved in the Quaker Valley PTA holding several offices and serving as President for two years. Her love of arts and crafts was manifested in her children's Halloween costumes, winning second place in the annual Halloween Parade dressed as Alvin and the Chipmunks. Family vacations at the beach, concerts, and Broadway shows were all life-enriching experiences for her children, made possible by the extra income her business generated. She enjoyed playing the piano just about every night before going to bed and her children could sometimes hear her music while falling asleep.
Betty's health became an issue in early 1970 and she was forced to close her salon. In late 1971, after accepting a job with the U. S. Treasury Department in Washington, D. C., she separated from Frank and relocated to Maryland. Mutual friends introduced her to Charles R. Elm whom she married in 1974. She and Charlie retired from government service in 1979 and bought a newly constructed home in Woodstock, VA. The builder permitted early access to move household items into the house. The next day they were notified the house had burned to the ground and that arson was suspected. The loss of irreplaceable photographs and heirlooms was devastating for Betty but she and Charlie found another house they made into a home and they lived a happy albeit quiet life until Charlie's sudden, unexpected death in January 1986. And in an effort to replace photos lost in the fire, she became interested in photography. Betty stayed in Woodstock and in January 1987 opened Grandma's Candyland featuring delectable homemade assorted chocolates, lollipops, and the most colorful hand decorated specialty items ever seen in the area.
In 1988 Betty went to work for the Department of Commerce in the Office of the National Park Service in Reston, VA. She moved to Centreville, VA and lived a short drive away from her daughter and family. She volunteered to chaperone school trips and events at her grandchildren's high school and was affectionately known as "Grandma Betty" by all. On one such overnight trip, Betty overheard some of the teenagers were planning to sneak out after curfew so she placed a chair from her room into the hallway and sat there crocheting into the wee hours until she was sure the would be no "shenanigans on her watch"!
Betty retired from her job with the National Park Service in June 1994 and was excited about having more time to visit family and friends. She began driving to Ambridge regularly to visit her 89-year-old dad who still lived in her childhood home on Ridge Road in Ambridge. During these road trips, if she saw a memorable sunset or an especially lovely garden, she would stop to photograph the experience so she could share it with others. She reached out to cousins living in the area and organized luncheons to talk about the "good ol' days". She continued to make candy, enlisting help from her grandchildren and neighbors. Upon hearing about a single mom in the neighborhood needing afterschool supervision for her children, Betty offered to help, and after snacks and homework, she would teach them songs to play on the piano.
Some of Betty's other favorite pastimes were watching old movies, musical theater, growing flowers, and crocheting and cross-stitch.
In 2001 Betty's health once again became an issue. On her doctors' recommendations that she not live alone, she asked to be relocated near her father in Ambridge and after a brief stay in Arden Courts of North Hills, she became a resident of Franciscan Manor in Beaver Falls. In 2005 her oldest son, living in Aurora, Colorado, relocated his family to Carlisle, Pennsylvania to assume the role of Betty's caregivers. They provided a loving family environment until her condition required professional assistance. In February 2012, she became a resident of Claremont Nursing Home in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, until her death.
Surviving Betty are her children, Cheryl Lynn (Pirkheim) and Captain Timothy E. Scheib, U. S. Navy, Retired, of Brownsville, Pennsylvania; Frank L. and Roxanne L. (Deming) Pirkheim of Carlisle, Pennsylvania; August L. and Christina A. (Franklin) Pirkheim of Wellsville, Ohio; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; and her brother August DiMarzio, Jr. of Salisbury, North Carolina.
Saul-Gabauer Funeral Home arranged a private family service with internment at Sylvania Hills Memorial Park in Rochester, Pennsylvania.
The family extends their thanks and appreciation to Hoffman Funeral Home & Crematory, Carlisle, PA and to Saul-Gabauer Funeral Home, Rochester, PA for their professional services and kind assistance.