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Kepka Betty Belton (1934-2019)

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Kepka Betty Belton, the little Bohemian lady who reintroduced Czech Kraslic to the Czech Capital of Wilson, Kan. resulting in a 20-foot egg off Old Highway 40, died Feb. 5, 2019, at Pinecrest Farms in Midland, Mich. 

Kepka, as she was known, was born March 11, 1934 on the Kepka farm in Wilson to Emil Vanek and Rose B. Kepka. Emil died before Betty was born. Three years later, Rose married Frank Hochman, who adopted Betty. They lived in Ellsworth, Kan., where Betty graduated from Ellsworth High School. She was known for her artistic work in organizations and businesses and for her tap dancing and comedy acts. In 1951 her home economics teacher, Delores Searcy Gunther, started the first art class at EHS as she recognized the talents of Betty and some of her friends. After Betty graduated, Delores Searcy took her to Emporia and introduced her to Emporia State University, where Betty received a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education.

In 1956, she served as president of Alpha Theta Rho art fraternity. Ten years later she earned a Master in Art Degree from Fort Hays State University.  

Kepka has spent her life creating in many media — teaching the arts at all age levels, giving talks and demonstrations, serving on art panels and as a judge promoting the arts and her Czech heritage across the country.  Winning many awards over the years, she was most proud of the National Heritage Fellowship given in 1988 by the National Endowment for the Arts, and also the letter from then President Ronald Reagan in which he wrote, “your artistic accomplishments inspired by the proud traditions of your forebears are truly a national treasure.”

Besides her 21-year teaching career, she designed cards for Hallmark Cards in Kansas City and Editions Limited in Massachusetts. Throughout the years she wrote and illustrated articles for Popular Crafts in the U.S. and England, Better Homes and Gardens, School Arts and Woman’s Day.

She married Glen S. Belton in 1969 but later divorced in 1974. She has one talented daughter, Risa Marie Hicks, and one grandson Christian Hicks, one niece and one nephew and many beloved cousins.  

Memorials can be sent to the Wilson Czech Museum, Wilson, Kan. 67490 or the Ellsworth County Historical Society, Ellsworth, Kan. 67439.

A memorial service is planned at a later date.