BATH, NY (WETM) – Seven years ago Deborah ‘Debbie’ Wilson, and her husband Phil Wilson received the worst news parents could receive, their daughter was murdered by the hand of her ex-boyfriend. Their pain was incalculable, but what Debbie did with her grief made her truly remarkable.
Seven years ago the Wilson’s got a call from the Niagra Police telling them that their daughter Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Rose Wilson had been murdered. At first, they thought the call was a prank. Elizabeth’s on again off boyfriend had been harassing her according to Phil.
“He’d be on her doorstep when she got home from work and confront her with things almost every day,” said Phil.
But the reality of what happened would soon hit, changing the Wilsons’ course of life, forever.
The signs of abuse started cropping up when Elizabeth was alive. During a visit at Christmas, she told her father that the boyfriend at the time had spent $5,000 on her credit card and convinced her to sign her name on a car for him according to Phil.
Phil recognized that his daughter was in trouble so he sought an attorney for help. But the reaction he received for the legal council was shocking.
“I talked to some local attorneys one day and his advice, he said, ‘what did you do? Raise an idiot?’ And that really hit me hard,” Phil recalled.
It was then when Phil told his daughter that she needed to get out. Elizabeth sold her house but a week before she moved, the ex-boyfriend took her life, and then took his closely after.
“Deb was, and Phil both were just devastated,” Nancy Weaver, a longterm family friend said.
Weaver’s daughter had been friends with Elizabeth since they were young and watched Elizabeth grow up. So when faced with tragedy, Weaver was there for the Wilsons to give support.
“It took her quite a while for her to be able to, to feel like she wanted to do anything because she was just struggling with this,” Weaver said.
Debbie started speaking at the local domestic violence shelters. By sharing her story she opened up a dialogue for other women to share their stories. The women found that they could relate to types of abuse that they previously thought only happened to them according to Debbie.
“I didn’t even know domestic violence, I didn’t know the definition, any of it, I didn’t even know that it happened,” Debbie shared. “When they listened to other versions they would say, “my man did that too.”
But Debbie wanted to do more.
“We’re going to this shelter, and we are opening up to these, this terrible story, how can we help them?” Debbie shared.
Debbie saw that the women at the shelter were getting out of their domestic abusive relationships but not for long and they would go back to their abusers.
“They have no house, they have no home, they have no nothing, lots of times they just go home because they have no other place to go,” Debbie recalled.
Debbie had an eye for decorating so she came up with the idea to decorate homes for the women starting a new life after they escaped from abuse. Through a bible study, Debbie created the Elizabeth Rose Ministries in the honor of her daughter.
“So we started pulling our own things, pulling out stuff that we didn’t really need and we put on Facebook that we would like that anybody that has any household items (to donate) and it just ballooned and mushroomed,” Nancy said.
“We had this 40 by 60 building that looks like a Salvation store packed and ready for apartments,” Phil said.
Phil was always there to help but from a distance.
“All we do is the moving part of things because the abuse that the women go through, they don’t need to have another strange man around, these ladies are the ones giving the support.”
As of today, the group has helped roughly 87 women but filling up their new homes with house supplies and support.
But after their daughter passed Debbie was diagnosed with cancer.
“Well, two years ago she went stage four, the local hospital basically sent us home with a death sentence on a Friday, once it goes stage four eventually it is going to take ya,” Phil said.
Debbie passed away in her home on January 14th, surrounded by her loved loves, she was 64.
Before she passed away, Phil nominated Debbie for the Remarkable Women Award, knowing that there was a good chance that she would not be with us by the time the winner would be announced. But he wanted to despite that asking to nominate the Elizabeth Rose Ministry in her name.
“I was sitting one time watching 18 news and I seen that add and I go, ‘wow I know a remarkable woman, and you know what we started here, it’s been remarkable what she did, to pull herself to build this organization and for what it’s done for these girls. It makes me proud for her and everything her and her friends built just… it’s remarkable,” Phil shared.