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"The Little Sergeant"

Vaslea was born in November 1918, a post World War I baby. She was known as "Betty" (they used to call her Vessie which she didn't like, which became Bessie, which she liked even less, which changed to Betty).

A daughter of immigrants, her father James Stephens (Demetri Stefanou) was a Greek from Turkey, and her mother Jennie was from Ireland; quite a combination. Betty's DNA showed she also had blood from Iberia, Asia and other surprising spots. Perhaps even more rarely, she was a native New Yorker.

Putting her age in perspective, Betty and her little brother Steve were there for Prohibition. Her dad had his own still and she used to enthusiastically stomp the grapes.

In high school she originally studied art but then, like now, artists made no money, so she switched to fashion design and worked in the business for a while.

Betty lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Like everyone who experienced shortages and economic tough times, she was always warning against scarcity: "Don't throw that out, you never know when you might need it." (even if it was just a 6" piece of string), or "Close the refrigerator, you're letting all the cold air out!" or "Eat everything on your plate ... people are starving in China."
She was a true representative of the "Greatest Generation."

She married Pete (Panayiotis) Georgiou in 1946 and became a loving wife and mother.

She had true grit. Once, she was mugged in her building. The thug punched her in the face a few times, breaking her nose, knocking her down, and grabbing her handbag. Betty, all 5' of her, got up and pursued him, shouting "stop him, stop him," drawing attention to him. She got her pocketbook back.

To her last days she showed her playful sense of humor. Recently, a nurse was babbling and Betty told her, "You sound like a chicken with three legs." No one was quite sure what it meant but it seemed appropriate.

Through much personal hardship and heartache, simply, she was most valiant, most generous, kindest person I've known.

Her late daughter Deanna and her son Gregory used to call her "The Little Sergeant" because she was short and had this brisk way of walking. And she loved to walk. Even into her 80s she'd think nothing of walking, unaided, the miles from an appointment on the upper east side to her downtown apartment on the west side.

Now, she'll be able to laugh and walk in the sunshine in the great expanse of fields of gold.