In memoriam: Author Betty Brogaard was Elvis acquaintance

Longtime FFRF Member Betty Jo Brogaard died on April 14 at age 82.

She was born March 9, 1937, in Memphis, Tenn. In an FFRF “Meet a Member” profile in 2010, she wrote: “Yes, I knew Elvis before he was The King. He was two years older, and we went to different public schools. The extent of our limited contact was at football games, where we would say ‘Hi Betty’ and ‘Hi Elvis.’ (I was very shy.)”

Betty had been a member of FFRF since 2000 and left a very generous bequest to FFRF.

“We’re very sad about losing Betty, and so grateful that she prized FFRF to the extent of leaving this significant bequest for our work,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

She was married to her husband Fred for 43 years until he died of a rare stomach cancer in 2008.

Betty earned a B.A. from Ambassador College in Pasadena, Calif., majoring in theology and communications. “I took creative writing classes in the Seattle area after Fred and I forsook the Worldwide Church of God cult in the 1970s,” she wrote.

She retired at age 70 after 52 years of nearly continuous office work. She became a freelance author, with two published books: Dare to Think for Yourself: A Journey From Faith to Reason and The Homemade Atheist: A former Evangelical Woman’s Freethought Journey to Happiness. “Before opening my eyes to the ‘light’ of unbelief, I wrote Christian magazine articles,” Betty wrote in 2010. “I’m amazed that I could have believed (or tried very hard to believe) the things I penned.”

She said it took her a while to finally come to terms with her atheism.

“I sporadically and quietly struggled against my growing nonbelief out of fear that my marriage would fall apart and all my family and friends would forsake me. But publicly, I’ve been avidly ‘out of the closet’ since the mid-’90s.”

But it was a great decision to be free from the mental constraints of religion, she wrote.

“I have contentment and a large measure of happiness that I didn’t have as a believer because I strove so hard and failed to be ‘perfect,’ as the bible dictates. I now have the freedom to think for myself and apply or acknowledge what I learn or question without fearing the many things I don’t understand. I have learned that I can even change my mind without guilt or shame as I study, listen to others and re-evaluate my position.”