Betty Paxton: My Role Model!

Apr 16, 2016 | 2 comments

Sydney, Betty, Jan

Sydney, Betty, Jan

Betty Paxton was in town last weekend and I was lucky enough to have lunch with her and her daughter Jan.  They probably had a gazillion people to see.  Plus they’re getting Betty’s house ready to sell.  But, somehow they made it seem like her time here in Long Beach was all about me.  I hope I can learn to do that when I grow up!  It’s one of many things I could learn from Betty!

She is definitely my role model.  A couple of years ago, she retired from her job as a carry-out-girl at Safeway.  She had worked there for 15 years and she thought “it was time.”  Never mind that she began there when she was 85 – five years older than I am now!  Yes, Betty will be 102 this summer and is still going strong.

Betty at Work, 2012

Betty at Work, 2012

We ate at her favorite ‘watering hole’ – the Lost Roo. She’s their favorite, too.  Owners Mark and Helen came by the table to visit with her and I think everyone in the place was aware that there was a celebrity in the booth in the upper right corner.  Nor did anyone blink an eye when she ordered a Bloody Mary, crème brûlée and coffee – “That’s it” – for lunch.  Why not?  Heavy on the vegetables, proteins that just slide sweetly down and a hot bit of stimulant for the road.  My kinda woman, I tell you!

We talked about how we met – thirty-five or forty years ago at Gordon and Roy’s.  Probably at a Christmas party, we thought.  I told her that Osa had finally found a happy home with the daughter of a woman Gordon worked with.  She was as thrilled as if she had arranged for the adoption herself.   She asked about our mutual friend Ruth whose ears must have been burning.  Betty and I both think she is one of the most remarkable women we know – “all those adopted children!” Betty said.  “And what a great writer she is!”

We talked about the AlCan Highway and Denali and the Iditarod and mushers.  We both sighed with pleasure over thoughts of her handsome neighbor Mark who keeps an eye on her place when she isn’t here.  She asked me if I knew anyone who wanted to buy a great house – the house she and her husband Gene built on property they bought from G&R, right next door to “the manor.”

Betty's House on the Right

Betty’s House on the Right

After lunch we went over for a tour of that very place.  It was in the throes of being packed up but there were still dozens of tchotchkes decorating the shelves – mementoes from a lifetime of traveling and collecting.  Betty never used the word “downsizing” but she did express the hope that someone would love some of her collectibles as much as she had.

We laughed and hugged and said “so long.”  It’s never been a “good bye” with Betty.  I can’t imagine that it ever will be.  She’s just that kind of a gal – my role model for sure!


  1. Alice Montgomery Robb

    Hello Sydney,

    I’m very pleased to find your page about Betty Paxton! She and I worked together at Group Health Hospital in Seattle back in the 1970’s. Recently I read an obituary for Julia Scanlon, who worked with both of us back in those days. It was Julia that I ran into one time while out shopping many years ago, who told me that Betty and Gene had moved down to Long Beach. That didn’t surprise me, as Betty and I had shared a love of the ocean beaches. It was Julia’s obit that caused me to think of Betty and look her up. I still have a small driftwood and shell sculpture that she made back in the day, though the beak of the tiny seagull broke off long ago. And I still have the Christmas card she sent us one year, of a photo of shells on the beach spelling out ” Christmas Tidings.” A very creative and enthusiastic gal! I wish we had kept in touch over the years, and I’m amazed that she’s 102 now. I’m only 67, and my hubby just turned 70. If you can, would you please send her my greetings? Thanks!

    • sydney

      Thanks so much for getting in touch! I have sent your message directly to Betty. She will be so pleased!


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