Betty J. Hennenfent


Betty J. Hennenfent, age 88, of Smithshire passed away at 4:50 pm at the Roseville Rehab Center in Roseville, Illinois 1

After her husband Mike, the thing that Betty J Hennenfent was really, really, really, really devoted to was her kids, grandkids and great grandkids.

Perhaps this was because she grew up as part of the Edward T. and Kathryn Gillen family west of Monmouth. There were 10 children and she often told her own children about growing up in the depression. “We didn’t have anything,” she said, “but the older kids pitched in and took care of the younger ones.” She often told how her older sisters looked out for her and how Mary and Lucille used money from their jobs in town to buy her dresses for school. 

For years she hustled her kids off to school every day, washed their basketball uniforms, cooked fantastic meals and went to school plays and basketball games. If the kids were involved, she went and that continued right down through the grandkids.

It took 22 years to get all 6 of her kids through grade school and high school. After the youngest graduated, all the kids wondered what she would do next. No problem. She went dancing with dad.

During those years, mom and dad got reacquainted with their friends from whom they had drifted while raising their kids – the Smithshire, Roseville and Point Pleasant gangs and a host of others from their days in Rural Youth. If you couldn’t find mom and dad in those years, they were out dancing somewhere.

As long as she was able, she never missed an Illinois State Corn Husking Contest. She went to see her brother Bill, her son Frank, her grandchildren and several of her nephews participate.

Family gatherings were the first order of importance for her. She put everything she had into preparing for them.  She wanted everyone at her house for Christmas and Thanksgiving and any other holiday possible. She loved the commotion of family gatherings and wanted to be near the action. Weiner roasts in the backyard on Friday nights in the fall were a long-standing family tradition while mom and dad lived at the farm.

She loved playing cards. In her later years she started every game of 10 point pitch by saying, “Oh, I can’t play tonight. My eyes are too blurry,” and then “Tell me the rules again. What are the points?” and then, “I really can’t see these cards tonight. What game did you say we’re playing?” It was true that she had trouble seeing but the rest of it was her little joke. Once she started playing she knew the rules, the points and the winning strategies – every time.     

After mom and dad moved into assisted living and for as long as mom was up to it dad drove them out to Smithshire two or three times a week and they spent the afternoon at home on the farm.  

Betty didn’t like being old. She always wanted to go home and get to work. She often said, “Your Grandpa Frank Hennenfent said there’s nothing better than a good day’s hard work.  I can still take care of myself if you would take me home and let me get to work.”

On August 3, 2019, she was granted respite from the ravages of age. 

Betty, a long-time resident of rural route Smithshire, is survived by her husband of 66 years, Mike, her younger brother George (Mary) Gillen, her 6 children, George (Janelle), Frank (Jeanette), Nick, Brad, Nancy Cruse and Steve (Judy) as well as a bunch of grandchildren– Laurel (Craig) Bingaman, Andrew (Jayme) Hennenfent, Nathan Hennenfent, Alex Cruse, Kendra Cruse, Michaela Cruse, Charles Cruse, Eric Hennenfent, Maureen Hennenfent, Jessica Maddox, and Douglas Hennenfent – and great-grandchildren – Emily Bingaman, Allison Bingaman and Aidy Hennenfent.  She is also survived by many nieces and nephews of whom she is very proud and loves dearly.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her sisters, Margaret Sullivan, Mary Weber, Katherine Mills, Frances Elliott, and Lucille Gillen; her brothers William (Bill) Gillen, LeRoy Gillen and Richard (Dick) Gillen; two nephews, John Gillen and William Gillen; her son-in-law Tom Cruse; and two grandchildren, Brandon Cruse and Adam Cruse.

As part of the celebration of her life, there will be a funeral Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Monmouth Illinois at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 8, 2019.  A rosary will be said before Mass at 10:00 am followed by visitation until the start of Mass.  Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery after Mass.  

Because Betty always liked those big Gillen Family get-togethers there will be a luncheon for family and friends at the Mary Twomey Hall immediately after the internment.

As Betty repeatedly told the grandkids, “Let’s have a little visit.”

In recognition of Betty’s love for children, memorials may be made to the Illinois Children’s Hospital in Peoria, a place where one of her great grandchildren spent the first nine weeks of her life receiving excellent care.

To leave a remembrance or for more information, please visit

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