A Mother’s Day Story: Anna and Betty
To understand the deep connection between 89-year-old Anna Sagatalian and her daughter Betty, one has to go back to when Anna was a child, born of immigrant Armenians, some of whom were lucky enough to be taken to safety during the Armenian Genocide of 1915, when 1.5 million Armenians were massacred. Anna’s parents met during those dark times, fell in love, and had three children: Anna first, then her brother, and a sister 16 years her junior. The family eventually escaped to Egypt.
Anna met her future husband Brovsky at a very young age. Her father denied Brovsky’s request for Anna’s hand in marriage because she was still a teenager. That didn’t stop Brovsky, who was an American citizen and fought in the U.S. Army. He returned when Anna was older and her father gave them his blessing, saying they should move to America.
Anna is now living with Alzheimer’s at Martine Center For Rehabilitation & Nursing in White Plains. Her daughter Betty and granddaughters, 6-year old fraternal twin girls, reside in Elmsford and visit her daily. Betty’s husband, Cesar Ortiz, a ballet dancer and instructor, also pays visits to his mother-in-law. Betty is still trying to get used to the fact that her mother has Alzheimer’s.
Betty remembers the love and fun times growing up on Long Island. Betty’s bond with her mother came in the way of cooking and baking, though her mother was the disciplinarian and her father was the playful parent. Her father was a commercial artist who also freelanced for Disney.
“Even today, I don’t know how we were able to fly to Disney every year [due to the expense],” says Betty.
Betty also remembers Christmases with her entire family as her mother cooked her specialties. “I wish I could have helped her,” Betty says of her mom’s holiday cooking. “But she had a love of cooking.”
After her father passed away and her sister Marguerite went off to college, Anna and Betty made it a fun weekly pilgrimage to go to Friendly’s Ice Cream. “I would wait for it and I’m sure she loved it as much as I did,” Betty recalls.
Prior to being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago, Anna worked as a cashier at Fortunoff’s and also sold watches. In 2003, while in Alexandria, Anna took a fall and was brought to a Cairo medical facility, where the medical care appeared to be sub-standard. Betty and her Marguerite flew to Cairo. One month later, the sisters created a medical ICU in the rear of a commercial airplane and flew her back to the states. Betty eventually moved Anna to be near her in Westchester.
Marguerite, now in her early 60s, is an attorney with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) in Washington DC. Betty is President and CEO of Realty Title Agency in White Plains. She also has another business – Carousel – where she teaches ballroom dancing in the evenings and on the weekends.
Betty visits her mother daily; Marguerite lives in the Washington DC area and visits monthly: two devoted and loving daughters.