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Going on 90, going strong Richard Pena | Sat, Sep 25 2010 12:00 PM

The other day at the Fellowship Hall of the Congregation Church I joined a group of folks in wishing Bonita resident Betty Austin a Happy Birthday. She is 90 years old.

Betty Austin is certainly one of those individuals who qualify as one of those interesting people that I come across. However, in her particular case she is not one I met in my travels, but one I have known for more than 50 years.

It was back in the mid 1950s. The scene was the newly erected Rosebank School, one of those early post-World War II schools in the Chula Vista district. I was one of those new parents who enrolled his kids for the first time. Betty was one of the teachers in the school.

Betty's tenure at Rosebank was the result of a long and fruitful teaching career that had started in her native Colorado and continued for 38 years.

It all began in 1942 in Wiley, Colorado when she took on the task of teaching children in a combination second and third grade classroom. She made a number of moves in the ensuing years until she found herself in Southern California. She said that her folks had moved to the state of Washington but she chose California, mostly to join a sister who had made the move earlier.

One of Betty's first teaching jobs was in Vista where she taught music in addition to other tasks. One of her colleagues at the Vista School was Wilbur Austin. Romance bloomed at this time and the two were married in December of 1947.

The year of 1950 heralded the start of the couple's mark in South Bay education.

It was Betty's first year with the district, teaching a fourthgrade class at the old F Street School. From there it was the education equivalent of going through the chairs. She added degrees and credentials and had many district jobs out of the classroom.

With an administration credential in hand, she was appointed to the principal ranks and ended her career at Los Altos School.

Los Altos, it must be noted, was one of the first schools in the district to go on a year-round track. By elementary school standards it is a large school, hence, the year-round theory worked in favor of the pupils. The idea of the year-round school caught on and now it is unusual to find a school that is on the traditional track of nine months on and three months off.

Betty's late husband, Wilbur, it must be noted was from one of the early families in Chula Vista. His father was the first postmaster in the city, and this was in the times when transportation was by horse and buggy or Model T Ford.

Wilbur finished his education career in the Sweetwater District. It must be added that he was also a very accomplished golfer. While at San Diego State he was one of the principal members of the golf team. In later years he competed in many local golf tournaments.

Betty has been a member of many organizations since her retirement. She has been an active member of the local chapter of the California Retired Teachers Association and has held many posts with the organization including a stint as president. She is also an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The master-of-ceremonies at the party the other day, daughter Linda Stokes, who, by the way, came all the way from Salt Lake City for the occasion, had a few anecdotes about Betty to relay.

She was ably assisted by other family members and friends who also lauded her.

Betty, by the way, still lives in her Bonita home of many years. Her companion at home is her niece Mary Hydrick. I have periodic contacts with Betty because we both belong to the same bridge group. After reaching the lofty heights of 90 years old, I am sure she will devote more time to bridge.



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