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Betty Rockwell celebrates 103 years

Julie Reeder and Debbie Ramsey

Betty Mae Rockwell, better known as “Kewpie” was born in 1920 in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up in the small town of Elgin, Illinois. She said her father nicknamed her “Kewpie” as a baby because she looked like the little Kewpie dolls that were sold at the fair.

At some point she worked in the Elgin watch factory and she remembered growing up in a middle class home with modern amenities at the time, including electricity.

She said she met her husband George on a blind date. Vickie Bartlett, her daughter, said, “Mom and Dad met on a blind date set up by a friend of my Dad’s. Dad was working at his family-owned gas station when his friend pulled up in a car with his girlfriend and her friend, Betty (my Mom).” The trio invited George to join them on a movie outing. He quickly replied “yes” and borrowed $2 from his brother for the outing.

The couple then began dating and their courtship lasted three years.

The night before their wedding, George was still working on finishing the building of their first home. It was where they planned to be married.

“After working his regular day job, George was nailing down the hardwood floor in the little brick house he had built for him and my mom, his future bride,” explained Bartlett. “Money was tight in those days, much like today, and he did most of the work himself.”

The couple had planned to be married in a very small ceremony in front of their fireplace in the home George built for Betty.

“Their pastor, who lived next door, heard George still hammering in the middle of the night and came over,” said Bartlett. “He said, ‘George, for heaven’s sake, you are getting married tomorrow; go home and get some rest!’”

George and Betty Rockwell became husband and wife the next day, Jan. 18, 1942 in front of their fireplace inside their new little brick home.

“They were married on newly installed, but not quite finished, hardwood floors,” said Barlett.

George continued building homes as a general contractor in Illinois during the early years of the couple’s marriage.

When George served 3-1/2 years in the military during World War II, much of his time was spent working in an Army hospital setting. In his free time, he handcrafted bracelets out of international coins. He sold these bracelets to military officers and sent the extra money he earned home to both Betty and his mother.

During George’s military service, Betty worked in a factory to help the war effort.

Eventually, the couple moved to the West Coast and went on to live in Compton and South Gate.

“My Dad worked for the Long Beach Shipyard until his retirement,” explained Bartlett, who added that her mother went on to work in retail (children’s) clothing.

“Most importantly, [my Mom] was a homemaker and mother,” said Bartlett.

With her husband, Betty enjoyed gardening on their one acre property in Fallbrook. They moved to Fallbrook in 2006 because of the great weather and to be closer to family.

She and George were married for 73 years, had two children, Vickie and Allen, and five grandchildren.

When asked if she had any advice for couples today. One thing she said was that no matter what their day was like, they would always tell each other ‘I love you’ before going to sleep. George passed away July 19, 2015, but Betty fondly remembers him as an honest man, a hard worker, a good provider, a good man, and a good husband.

She said, “We just got along.” Vickie Bartlett added, “They watched out for each other. My parents are a great example of love and commitment to each other, family and friends.”

Hobbies Betty has enjoyed in addition to gardening include sewing clothes and doing oil painting, which she started in her 70s. She created some beautiful pieces. She also enjoyed writing poetry and short stories.

She currently lives at Regency Fallbrook Assisted Living, which she enjoys and says she is blessed to live there. She said, “I have a nice apartment, my two kids, and my friends here.”

She was looking forward to her birthday celebration at Regency, having cake and ice cream, and being surrounded by friends and family. Her favorite cake is Angel Food cake and Bartlett remembered her making it homemade for her as a young girl.

When asked if she had any wisdom to offer on how to live to be 103, she said, “Well, I didn't do anything special, just lived. I love people and kindness is important.”

 

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