“My earliest recollection was that my mom was my adoptive mom,” said Connie Gavrich, “and I knew I was the center of her universe.”
Connie was adopted as a newborn. Her adoptive mother, Betty Goumas, could not have children. Her adoptive father died of leukemia when she was just shy of three years old.
“As a single parent in the 1950s, my mom was very much a woman ahead of her time,” said Connie. While Betty had no formal education, she worked full-time, ran a household, and cared for her daughter and other family members in the household.
Connie laughed as she said her mother knew how to stretch a penny. “She always dressed very well,” Connie remembers. “She had one or two nice outfits and would keep them looking great year after year.”
The Goumas family lived in Livingston, New Jersey, with easy access to New York City and Atlantic City. “My mother would take me on adventures almost every weekend,” said Connie. “She wanted to expose me to everything she could.”
Connie attended the all-women Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she majored in Political Science — but also studied Secondary Education and Environmental Studies.
“It was great!” exclaimed Connie. “Since it was all-women, I learned to assert myself in positive ways.”
Connie then went on to earn an MBA from Rutgers University.
“Mom always taught me to be independent,” said Connie. After college she got a job at a large New Jersey bank as a systems analyst and then with TRW Financial Services in Manhattan, the beginning of a successful career in finance and banking. “When I graduated, I wanted to have a roof over my head and to make my own decisions,” she said. “I wasn’t looking for a husband.”
At age 24, Connie moved back into the house where she had spent most of her life. Coincidentally, it was also where Connie met her husband, Larry Gavrich. She was mowing the lawn one day and Larry was visiting at the house across the street. They struck up a conversation which eventually led to friendship, marriage and another loving family.
Connie and Larry, who is a Village Board member, have two children, Tim and Jennie, and they all remained close with Connie’s mom, who continued to work until she was 70 years old. Jennie is a social worker for the State of Vermont and Tim lives and works in Florida for The Golf Channel.
“She loved her grandkids!” Connie said. “She was a fun grandmother — she’d get right down on the floor to play with them. She always had a twinkle in her eye when the kids were around.”
Connie’s mom passed away in 2004 at age 87. But her impact clearly hasn’t.
“She taught me that love is unconditional,” said Connie. “I admired her. She was strong and always did what she needed to. She was very kind and selfless — always doing things for other people.”
Connie never knew her natural family, only that her birth mother was very young and her birth father had been killed in the Korean conflict.
Betty was very open to Connie about looking for her birth mother and asked her at age 16 if she wanted to try to find her. Connie said, “No” because she knew she had “the best parent anyone could have wanted.”
To honor her mom and to celebrate the commitments of other adoptive families, Connie and Larry created the Betty Goumas Endowed Fund at The Village. It joins six other endowed funds created to support, in perpetuity, a particular interest of a donor.
Connie and Larry are pleased with the growth of the fund over the years. Friends and family members have contributed to honor Betty’s life.
Last year, with money from the fund, The Village was able to provide gift cards for adoptive parents to help them do fun and exciting things as a family — like Connie did with her mom. Connie and Larry are now considering creating a college scholarship fund for foster and adopted children.
No doubt, Betty Goumas would be as proud of that as she always was of her daughter. Betty’s legacy of unconditional love continues.