Bettye Wehrli was affectionately known as “Mrs. Naperville,” for the many contributions she made to the city. A resident for 56 years, she had a hand in the beginnings of both the Century Walk, and Naper Settlement.
Daughters Of The American Revolution
She even brought a bit of history to the town itself, as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She was able to trace her lineage back to a Virginia soldier who served in the Revolutionary War.
“She’s done it all,” said Wrenne Jakubiak, a longtime friend of Wehrli and fellow DAR member. “She is Mrs Naperville to be quite honest.”
Jakubiak said the Fort Payne Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution honored Wehrli on June 13 with a community service award for all her contributions to Naperville.
And those were many. She helped others grow, running the first fundraiser with Little Friends. Her love for learning landed her a role on the Naperville Library Board, and was a gift she shared as a tutor in District 203. Her interests stretched into the arts, leading her to take part in the Naperville Art Association and West Suburban Art Association. She also had a hand in Ribfest, as a longtime volunteer and coordinator. And her reach spanned beyond Naperville, as she spearheaded the Wright Brothers Flyer replica at the Museum of Science and Industry, according to her obituary.
Her friends described her as an extroverted southern lady, who would often go to Downtown Naperville wearing a dress and a flower on her head.
“She would go on the Riverwalk and then go have breakfast somewhere, maybe Egg Harbor, or wherever,” said Jakubiak. “And then she would go into each individual shop and talk to all the people there.”
Jakubiak said Wehrli could make someone feel like they were the most special person in the world because she was always interested in what was going on in their life.
Ray Kinney, another longtime friend of Wehrli, agreed.
“Bettye Wehrli was somebody who was always more worried about everybody else than herself,” said Kinney. “She was extremely proud to be a Napervillian and a member of this community. She was a force to be reckoned with.”
Naperville’s Unofficial Mother
In a blog post on Naper Settlement, Wehrli said she arrived in Naperville in 1966, “as a young widow with three small sons.” She married Jim Wehrli in 1969. Together they were involved in the renovation of Downtown Naperville and helped with the overhaul of the Riverwalk.
“She was Naperville’s mother in a lot of ways,” said Kinney. “She loved this town, she loved the people in it, she loved the cause, she loved giving back and sharing herself and gifts with this community to make it a better place.”
Wehrli died on June 28, at the age of 87. On Friday, July 2nd from 2:00-4:00 p.m. community members can pay their respects to Wehrli at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home & Cremation Services, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville, IL 60540.
Naperville News 17’s Christian Canizal reports.
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