Teacher’s love extended to students, animals
Every Christmas, schoolteacher Betty Unger taught her daughters the importance of giving rather than receiving.
“She semi-adopted a couple students (and) became a stabilizing influence for them,” said Unger’s daughter, Anne King Unger. “I remember countless Christmas Eves, wrapping up gifts for their families and delivering them to Manchester, to Pitcairn … just because she felt it was necessary. She cared, and it showed.”
Betty Ann King Unger died Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, of kidney failure in Monroeville, with her daughter at her side. She was 80.
Born in Brooklyn and raised in New Jersey, Mrs. Unger spent most of her adult life in Wilkinsburg. She earned a master’s degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology and became a teacher in the late 1960s.
Until her retirement in 1983, she was an immensely popular teacher in the Gateway School District.
“Students just loved her, boys and girls,” Anne Unger said. “She’d volunteer to chaperone the school dances on Friday nights, and most students would end up in the hallway talking to my mom rather than dancing. There was one instance where there was a Kennywood day, and as soon as the students saw her, everybody just swarmed her. As a child I can remember being very frustrated that we couldn’t get on the rides fast enough because everybody wanted to talk to Mom.”
Outside the classroom, Mrs. Unger had an eclectic range of hobbies. She was fluent in French and an avid skier. She was a skilled pianist and singer, and even danced ballet en pointe. She belonged to the Women’s College Club, The Pittsburgh Ski Club and the National Home Economics Association.
And she loved animals. Mrs. Unger lived in assisted care facilities for several years, then Anne Unger took her mom home to live with her and her cats.
“I feed the birds in the backyard, and once in while I get deer eating the seed,” Anne King Unger said. “Mom would always insist that I slice up apples for the deer, because that was important for her.”
They lived together for 19 months before Mrs. Unger passed away.
“We spent quality time together here at the house, and I’m very thankful for that – that I had that time with her to get to know each other better and to be there for her,” Anne Unger said. “She had such a gentle nature to her and a truly caring personality.”
In addition to her daughter Anne, Mrs. Unger is survived by her husband, William S. Unger Jr.; daughter, Gail Unger Fryncko; sister, Marilyn Jones Jesson; and two grandchildren.
Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc., 4900 Centre Ave. at Devonshire Street in Shadyside. A funeral service will be held there at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Remembrances may be made to the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania or the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.
Chris Togneri is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5632 or [email protected].