Betsy Ebeling, best friend of Hillary Clinton, remembered for kindness, generosity
Betsy Ebeling was perhaps best known as a human rights advocate and the longtime best friend of Hillary Clinton. But loved ones say her kindness extended far beyond the political scene, touching the lives of everyone who knew her.
Ebeling, an Arlington Heights resident who grew up with Clinton in Park Ridge, died Sunday at 73 after a long battle with breast cancer, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"She did so many good things for so many people, and was such a kind person, and exhibited such an enormous generosity of spirit," said Ernest Ricketts, a former classmate of the pair and close friend for more than 60 years. "I really can't tell you how deeply saddened we are by her loss."
Over the years, Ebeling organized get-togethers with Clinton's childhood friends whenever she came to town. She was a strong supporter of the former secretary of state, senator and first lady during her 2016 presidential campaign, and she cast the Illinois delegate votes for Clinton during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in July.
In a campaign video released that year, Ebeling spoke highly of Clinton's work and reflected on the significant life experiences she's shared with her best friend since they met in September 1958: "Each other's weddings. Babies being born. Parents sick. Parents dying."
The friends attended Eugene Field School in Park Ridge together and graduated from Maine South High School in 1965. Ebeling was Clinton's matron of honor in her marriage to Bill Clinton, and she and her family visited the couple in the White House after Bill was elected president, Daily Herald archives show.
Clinton's role as the first lady put Ebeling -- as well as other former classmates -- in the media spotlight, particularly during Bill's re-election campaign in 1996. She and Ricketts appeared on "Larry King Live," and she was featured in a 30-minute talk with Clinton on WGN Radio.
At the time, Ebeling served as special assistant to the deputy chief executive officer of the Democratic National Convention -- a job she got thanks to Clinton, she told the Daily Herald.
Ebeling later went on to work on human rights issues for the state of Illinois and dedicated her career to "fighting for a better future for people across our nation," Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted Monday.
"Like her many friends, I loved Betsy for her kindness, sense of humor and her genuineness," he said. "I am heartbroken to lose my friend. My condolences to her family and the countless friends she leaves behind."
Ebeling's son, Colin, shared the news of his mother's death in a Facebook post Monday, saying she was surrounded by family.
"I don't know what story to tell. I don't know what photo to post. I'll simply say we lost my dear, sweet, selfless mother last night," he said in the post. "It was peaceful and she will be deeply missed."
Ricketts says he looks back fondly on the great memories and countless laughs he shared with Ebeling since they became friends in the sixth grade. He watched her become a loving wife, mother and grandmother, he said, noting their families were close and saw each other frequently.
"Betsy was just a lovely person, a kind person and a dynamic person," Ricketts said. "She was just the best person our generation could offer to the world."