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Epilogue | Betty Upson-Schmitz

Betty Upson-Schmitz refused cancer treatment, died on her terms

LARGO — Betty Upson-Schmitz relished her roles on the stage. She owned St. Petersburg Little Theatre audiences as Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire and landed numerous other roles over several decades at area theaters.

She delivered her strongest performances off the stage in her roles as mother and nurse. She was strong and opinionated. When two marriages ended in divorce, she remained hopeful.

When ovarian cancer surfaced a month ago, she did not flinch. Doctors held out a threadbare hope if she would undergo painful treatments.

Ms. Upson-Schmitz declined with thanks. She died at home Wednesday. She was 83.

She was born Mary Elizabeth Ranney and grew up in St. Louis. She met her first husband at Ohio State University. Betty and Richard Vogler, an architect, married in 1948.

They moved to St. Petersburg in 1951. Her husband designed the buildings at Fort De Soto Park and lots of houses. She worked as a registered nurse at area hospitals and acted in plays. She raised children and took an interest in their friends.

"She was a cool mom," said Debbie Genz, who dated Ms. Upson-Schmitz's sons, Bob and Tom. "She was more like a peer, a good friend to all of us, a good listener, very funny and hip for her age."

Betty and Richard Vogler divorced after 20 years of marriage. In 1978 she married David Upson, who worked in radio and acted in out-of-state Shakespearian productions.

Ms. Upson-Schmitz divorced Upson after several years but kept his name. In 1985 she added a hyphen, plus the name of retired businessman Gary Schmitz.

"She never gave up on that kind of thing, never got cynical about it," said her son Tom Vogler, 57.

For the past decade, Ms. Upson-Schmitz worked for the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, providing care to dying patients at their homes.

Those experiences may have prepared her for her own illness. Barely a month ago, doctors diagnosed Ms. Upson-Schmitz with ovarian cancer.

By the end of her stay in Largo Medical Center, the cancer had bloated her belly. She took a dose of chemotherapy, which weakened her.

By then, she wanted nothing more than a few sips of liquids. Taking in another 2,000 calories of Ensure, as the oncologist recommended, plus more chemotherapy seemed unappetizing.

"She said, 'I don't think I've got that kind of fight left in me,' " said Tom Vogler, a hospice nurse in Jacksonville.

Her family understood, even if all her friends didn't. A few of them called over the last few days of her life. She tried to explain it to them.

"She didn't like the idea of a long, drawn-out demise," her son said.

Ms. Upson-Schmitz died early Wednesday on her own terms.

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or




Born: Jan. 24, 1926.

Died: Aug. 5, 2009.

Survivors: sons, Bob Vogler and his wife, Shari, Tom Vogler and his wife, Nancy; daughter, Susan Bell and her husband, James; and numerous nephews, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Service: to be arranged through the Unitarian Universalist Church of Clearwater.

Betty Upson-Schmitz refused cancer treatment, died on her terms 08/05/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 5, 2009 8:54pm]
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