Obituary: Elizabeth Hampel, 1927-2018 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Obituary: Elizabeth Hampel, 1927-2018

Published January 15, 2019 at 5:30 a.m.
Updated January 15, 2019 at 10:51 a.m.


Elizabeth (Betty) Cornell Doolittle Hampel passed away on October 8, 2018, in Burlington, Vt. She was born in 1927 and grew up in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. As a child, she seemed to be so emotionally and physically challenged that she was taken to Vassar College for evaluation. At that time, myasthenia gravis, the underlying neurological cause for her periods of inability to walk, was not recognized. It was thought that Betty’s condition was psychologically based, but through cognitive testing it was determined that she was in the genius range. It was not until she was in her sixties that, due to advanced medical research, she was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, somewhat to her relief.

Her formal education ended before she finished elementary school. At 18, her first employment was in the office of the Wilbur Coal and Lumber Company in Poughkeepsie, where her many duties necessitated learning to determine the board feet needed for building projects, an ability of which she was always proud.

For the next 15 years, she worked in the offices of four insurance companies in Poughkeepsie and Utica, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt. One of her employers wrote of her, “Miss Doolittle is capable of efficiently operating and managing an insurance office entirely by herself.”

Betty had produced fine art from an early age, and after she moved to Burlington she met, studied art with and married the artist Harrison Hampel. Working in Burlington and Middlebury, she pursued an artist’s life, specializing in portraits, landscapes and fanciful drawings representing what one reviewer called a “storybook world” and “a nostalgic vision of a rural past.” She exhibited in one-person and group shows, locally and nationally, and one of her pictures was selected for the cover of the art section of an edition of Seven Days.

The culmination of her work as an artist occurred a few years ago, when her painting of the Morgan Horse Farm was selected to represent Vermont in an exhibition of work from all 50 states that toured the entire country.

In the 1980s, Betty learned to use the computer and then divided her efforts between art and writing. She began writing poetry, children’s books, short stories, memoir pieces and novels, and illustrating many of them. For several years she was a member of a writer’s group in Middlebury, and her work was published locally and nationally. Her art and writing communicated her enthusiasm, humor, sensitivity, sympathy, understanding, and fascination with romance and adventure.

Betty was known for her interest in politics and costume jewelry, her sense of style, her eye for secondhand designer clothes, her devotion to her pets, her business acumen and frugality, her self-discipline and drive, her exacting artistic standards, her talent and creativity, her sense of humor and positive outlook, and her generosity. She continued working as long as she could, and even in her last days, at 90 years old, she was talking about projects she needed to finish.

She is survived by her cousins, one of whom, author-publisher Roberta M. Roy, was instrumental in the publication of Betty’s novels. Betty was predeceased by her husband, Harrison; her parents, Marian (Milan) and Rex Doolittle; her sister and brother-in-law Elsa and Louis Barmore; and her niece Karen Bojara Smith, for whom Betty was a caregiver in Karen’s early years.

Thanks go to Betty’s friends and college visitors, as well as to caregivers in Middlebury and Burlington, from Addison County Home Health, Bayada Hospice and the Ethan Allen Residence. Betty did not want a memorial service, only for several family members to conduct a ceremony for her burial in Hyde Park, N.Y., arranged by Sanderson-Ducharme Funeral Home of Middlebury.

Contributions in Betty’s memory may be made to Homeward Bound Animal Welfare Center — Addison County Humane Society, Inc., 236 Boardman St., Middlebury, VT 05753, and to the Ethan Allen Residence, c/o Mary Mougey, Director, 1200 North Ave., Burlington, VT 05408.

Online condolences and remembrances may be sent to

Betty lives on not only in our memories but in her work, as in a poem she wrote for her husband, Harrison: “We’ll paint each other’s portraits, / and pen each other rhymes, / And spend all of forever / sharing loving, happy times.”

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