Betty Jane Smith was born on February 4, 1921 in Muskegon, Michigan. After a life well lived, she passed away peacefully May 6, 2017 at the age of 96.
She grew up in a talented family and despite the Great Depression and other family hardships, she thrived. After high school, she worked at the local Muskegon newspaper and during the height of World War II, she moved to New York City. Betty got a job working in radio for the Mutual Broadcasting System. Those around her recognized that she had an eye for detail, persistence and ability to see what was needed in any given situation. She worked at MBS before the dawn of television and she always thought it was a mistake that MBS didn’t expand into television broadcasting at the end of WWII.
A friend suggested she come to San Francisco, so in 1947 she made the move west. She obtained a position as Executive Secretary at J Walter Thompson Advertising. She would give a new perspective to the executives of what would be helpful to women at home raising a family. While skiing with friends a few years later, she met Paul Burton Smith, the love of her life, at Sugar Bowl Ski Area in CA. They wed in 1952 and stayed in the Russian Hill area of San Francisco. Two years later they moved to the suburbs and purchased their first home with a yard in Walnut Creek, California. At that time, she didn’t know the difference between a juniper and a blackberry bush. Betty and Paul moved up the coast to Mercer Island in 1961 after a short time in Portland.
After years of learning from other gardeners, she became well-versed in plants and her garden blossomed. She loved to spend time in her garden, taking a seed and watching it grow; she had once commented that it was like watching a child grow up. In addition to gardening, Betty loved to travel to Europe as well. Additionally, she enjoyed the outdoors, taking the family camping, hiking and snow skiing.
After raising the family and watching each of her children graduate from college, a determined Betty combined her love of nature and flowers with her love of history and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Art History at the University of Washington at the age of 68 in 1989.
Her children remember how she helped each of them to do their best in whatever they pursued. Betty was known for being a loyal and caring friend to many. During her lifetime, she enjoyed being a member of her local Arboretum Unit Number 41, the Women’s University Club, Mercer Island Beach Club and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. She was the last remaining original resident of her street on Mercer Island. Betty and Paul celebrated over 62 years of marriage before his passing in February of 2015. Betty is survived by her three children: Paul Smith, Gretchen Smith and Holly Ulfers and five grandchildren: Matthew, Eric, Emily, Adam and Austin.
In lieu of flowers, your donations would be welcome at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church or the Arboretum Foundation where a bench in her memory will be placed. At her request, there will not be a memorial service. She will join Paul at Tahoma National Cemetery.