Statement on the Passing of Betty Anne McCaskill
St. Louis, Mo. – Betty Anne Ward McCaskill, 84, passed away today from natural causes, surrounded by her family at her home in St. Louis.
Senator Claire McCaskill released the following statement:
“I am very sad to announce today the passing of my mother, Betty Anne McCaskill. For some time, mom’s health has not been good, and our family takes comfort that she is now at rest. People all over the state have asked about her, and their prayers and concern have been greatly appreciated. Mom never met a stranger and lived life with enthusiasm that none of us could match. We were incredibly lucky to have a mother like her, a woman of great intellect and strength, who loved and nurtured, challenged and pushed, and was always there with wise counsel and great humor. While we know she’s finally at peace, our family and her friends will all miss her so very much. Her death creates a hole in my life that will never be filled.”
ABOUT BETTY ANNE
Betty Anne McCaskill, the first woman ever elected to the Columbia City Council, was a mainstay of Missouri Democratic politics throughout her life.
Inspired to get involved in politics after President Harry Truman delivered the commencement address at her University of Missouri graduation in 1950, Betty Anne was known for her own brand of plain-spoken, colorful, Midwestern sensibility, not unlike Truman’s.
She and her husband, Bill McCaskill, worked for many candidates through the years, beginning with Senator Stuart Symington and every election year since. She was a friend to local town officials as well as Presidents, with the same campaign effort made for both.
As in her daughter Claire McCaskill’s previous elections, in 2006 Betty Anne became a tireless fixture on the campaign trail as Claire successfully launched her first bid for the US Senate.
Betty Anne spoke on Claire’s behalf at numerous events, where she famously peppered her remarks with self-effacing humor and phrases reminiscent of her Ozarks upbringing, such as “hornswoggled,” “rickeydooed,” and described the Medicare Part D “donut hole” as a “flimflam game.”
In one well known campaign ad, Betty Anne touted Claire’s integrity, hard work and guts-a series of traits that were clearly passed down from mother to daughter.
As was widely reported at the time, Betty Anne played a critical role in bolstering Claire’s outreach throughout rural Missouri, a strategy that helped Claire garner enough votes to become the first woman from Missouri elected to the Senate in her own right.
Throughout her life, Betty Anne was a steadfast advocate for Missouri’s women and families, working to ensure her daughters and granddaughters had the same opportunities as her son and grandsons.
Betty Anne’s own career was wide-ranging and varied, but her life was marked by a sustained passion for encouraging women to get involved in politics and their communities.
Starting at an early age, Betty Anne and her husband, Bill McCaskill, urged their children to engage in political discussion over the dinner table, encouraging their daughters and son to speak up and hold strong opinions. At Halloween in 1960, Betty Anne taught her children to say “trick or treat and vote for JFK,” as they went door-to-door asking for candy.
Among Betty Anne’s first roles in public service was her appointment to the Missouri Commission on the Status of Women in 1970. The Commission was convened to evaluate the opportunities available to Missouri’s women in the fields of government, business and education, and to make recommendations to remedy existing inequalities.
Betty Anne’s appointment to the Commission was her first official post in her ongoing efforts to expand opportunities for women across Missouri in the fields of government and politics.
In 1971, Betty Anne became the first woman elected to the Columbia City Council. After her service, she remained actively involved in Democratic politics and the issues she cared about most, such as access to higher education. At one point, Betty Anne served on the Board and as President for the Trustees of her alma mater, William Woods University.
After moving from Columbia to Springfield, Betty Anne mounted an unsuccessful campaign for State Legislature in 1978 against Leroy Blunt, the father of Sen. Roy Blunt. In 1980, Betty Anne was appointed to be the Springfield Region Director of Census.
In 1989, Betty Anne received the Alumna Award of Distinction, the highest honor bestowed upon William Woods alumnae, where she also served as the president of the National Alumnae Association and was a member of the Board of Directors. In 1965, she received the Green Owl Award for outstanding service to the college.
At the age of 54, due to her husband’s illness, Betty Anne showed her mettle once again when she embarked on a new, 20-year career as a financial consultant for Waddell and Reed in Kansas City.
In 2008, Betty Anne was honored by the Boone County Democratic Party with the Betty Anne McCaskill Glass Ceiling Scholarship, which was created to honor young women who are active in the Democratic Party.
Betty Anne Ward was born August 5, 1928, in La Crescenta, Calif. to Mildred Harlin Ward and Samuel Ward. As a child, Betty Anne’s family moved back to Missouri, where she was raised in West Plains and then Lebanon, by her mother and her aunt and uncle, Elizabeth Harlin Conner and Tom Conner.
Betty Anne graduated high school in Lebanon, Mo., before attending William Woods University. Betty Anne transferred to the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.
After graduation, Betty Anne married William Young (Bill) McCaskill on June 18, 1950. Betty Anne and Bill, who went on to serve as Missouri’s State Insurance Commissioner, spent their married life in Houston, Lebanon, Columbia, Springfield and Kansas City, Mo before his death in 1993. She moved to St Louis to live with her daughter Claire and her husband Joseph Shepard in 2005.
As a member of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Betty Anne characteristically took an active role, singing in the choir and teaching Sunday School, just as her mother Mildred Ward had done by playing the church organ for more than 30 years.
She is survived by her children Anne Moroh (Don), Claire McCaskill (Joseph Shepard), Lisa Finn (Nick), and Will McCaskill; grandchildren Conner and Nolan Finn; Austin, Maddie, and Lily Esposito; and McKenzie McCaskill; numerous beloved step-grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and wonderful dear friends, including her caregiver Sarah Dalton.
A memorial service will be held to celebrate her life on Sunday, November 4 at 3 p.m. at the Sheldon Concert Hall, 3648 Washington Boulevard, Saint Louis, MO 63108.
In lieu of flowers the family suggests a contribution to the Betty Anne McCaskill Scholarship Fund, 109 Reynolds Alumni Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.