The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

Obituary - Betty Conley

 

April 25, 2018



Former Valdez woman Betty Conley died March 29, at her home in Arvada, Colorado.

She was born April 22, 1930 to John Michael and Mary Blanch, with an older brother and sister. Betty grew up in the poorer 4th ward in the small town of Dunkirk. Her mother died when she was 10, and her sister had married, so Betty became the "woman" of the house, caring for her father and doing household chores. At the end of her senior year, she married and she and her new husband moved to Los Angeles. The young couple couldn't make it work, so Betty migrated to Arizona, where after some trials, she became a welder, riveting aircraft parts. From there she moved to Denver, which led her to Kerlin Motors, where she became a driver for their line of small race cars. In 1957 through 1958 she was one of their top drivers, winning the prestigious Pikes Peak Hill Climb. From there she worked as a secretary for the Vice President of Sun Oil in Denver. Remembering hearing about Alaska in grade school, she finally fulfilled her dream and moved to Anchorage in May 1964, just following the devastating earthquake. She found employment as a secretary to the Vice President of the Anchorage National Bank. While there, a coworker introduced her to a friend at a party. The friend was enamored and followed her, running into her frequently. They were married September 4, 1964. Betty, Bill and Don moved to Girdwood, a small ski resort 38 miles south of Anchorage. There Betty worked for as a secretary and "go fer" for the Alyeska Ski Resort. This also sparked her first business experience, where she organized/ arranged financing/ edited/ sold advertising for the weekly Girdwood Gazette. While running her house, helping cook at one of the ski lodges and establishing herself as hostess at dinner parties the valley people all enjoyed, Betty still took the time to lovingly tend to the needs of her son and husband.

Moving back to Anchorage, she completed her GED and received her Executive Secretarial Diploma, and became the Executive Secretary for Larry Carr, owner of Carr Enterprises, including retail and wholesale groceries and real estate. Piquing her interest, she studied for and passed her real estate exams and established her own real estate company. Unfortunately, one of her partners caused problems and the business closed. She moved to Valdez and established herself in this small town. The experience she enjoyed the most was building a second hand store. Our little town did not have one, but was needed. Betty really found her niche, collecting, buying, selling and donating, and helping those in our community - an endeavor she really enjoyed. She found time to be a Commissioner for Valdez Planning and Zoning; charter member and past president of the Valdez Emblem Club; like many Alaskans she spent a year on the "slope" working in the Electrical Union Warehouse; a tour guide for Alyeska Pipeline Service Company; a director for the Valdez Senior Center; a member of Bayside Community Church and served as an unpaid secretary for many years; she spent a year working in the mission field in Quito, Ecuador; all this while becoming a competent boat skipper and served 31 years in the Coast Guard Auxiliary.

Betty was an avid fisherman and her love of Prince William Sound and the wildlife was unbounded.

As she aged and her health began to fail, Betty and Bill moved to Arvada to be closer Don and his family, enjoying the warmth and love of her family. Moving into an assisted living facility at Ralston Creek Neighborhood, Betty found this problematic as she no longer had meals to plan and cook, dishes, house to clean, and this was against what she was used to doing. Then she fell and broke her femur in her leg and between the trauma of the fracture, the operation, the anesthesia and the heavy-duty pain pills, she never recovered. She spent a week in the hospital, then three weeks in rehab, finally transferring to Ralston Creek Memory Care. But she never recovered her spirit and health after the accident. She died 25 days short of her 88th birthday.

Those of you who wish to remember Betty, in lieu of flowers, please donate to research Alzheimer Disease and Dementia Association in hopes of finding a cure to this terrible affliction.

 

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