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Elizabeth Marie McMahon 1919-2007


Our highly intelligent and well-respected mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, best friend, and supporter Elizabeth Marie McMahon (aka Betty) died unexpectedly and peacefully on March 24, 2007, at age 87.

Originally from Colorado, the family moved to New York City where both Betty’s parents received their master’s degrees from Columbia University as Greek and Latin scholars. After receiving her early education in Dallas, Texas, Betty attended the University of Texas at Austin where she met and married our dad, Sam Gadol, with whom she enjoyed competing for top honors in all things academic. Betty graduated in 1941, summa cum laude, receiving her bachelor’s degree while pregnant with her first child, Louis. Their next two children, Sara and myself, were born in Oregon.

Elizabeth Marie McMahon 1919-2007

Sam had just completed his master’s degree in education at the University of Oregon when the family moved to California, enabling Betty to complete her master’s in library science at UC Berkeley. She spent many years at UCSB as a reference librarian before retiring. While reviewing her personal papers, we discovered notes of appreciation from students and professors who recognized Betty’s keen ability to garner unique sources of information vital to their scholarly pursuits.

Betty also made quite certain we three children attained the levels of education we desired. Thanks to her, Louis has a PhD in psychology from the International University in San Diego; I have a bachelor’s degree in English, plus an English as Second Language Teacher’s Certificate from UCSB; and Sara has a double master’s degree in counseling psychology and junior college administration from Cal State Dominguez Hills. Betty’s grandchildren and step-grandchildren have also benefited greatly from her vast knowledge and ability to research necessary resources for advanced degrees. During retirement, Betty taught French to the home-schooled children of Art and Kathy Battson, and also helped Santa Barbara-area dyslexic students.

Betty Marie had several passions, including literature of all genres; anything relating to the field of medicine, particularly the brain; genealogy; Scrabble; and more recently, Sudoku. Inspired by her two heroes, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, she intended to publish a book for junior high and high school students on the American Revolution.

It is rare for one person, so mentally capable and personally accomplished, to leave such an all-encompassing legacy. Not only did Betty pursue our Tucker/Tudor genealogies back to the 1500s, but she also continually promoted intelligence with a deft sense of humor. For example, among her papers we found a “Pot-Shots” cartoon from our local humorist, Ashleigh Brilliant: “It’s not much use pooling our resources if our chief resource is stupidity.” Another Laugh Parade cartoon was of a teacher coming into the principal’s office exclaiming, “I socialized them, I affirmed them, and I validated their self-esteem : I didn’t have time to teach them anything!”

As children growing up, we were encouraged to bring our own books to the dinner table, along with a dictionary, to discuss in an open forum what we were reading. Our parents believed it important not to engage in idle gossip, but rather to discuss the thoughts of, for example, Pericles and Plato. Our mother understood and wished to remind her fellow Americans of Mahatma Gandhi’s cautionary list of the seven deadly sins: “wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principle.”

Throughout her life, Betty was most generous with her funds, giving widely to both family members and such organizations as Direct Relief, Habitat for Humanity, SBCC Music-Australian Choir Tour, Colonial Williamsburg, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Rescue Mission, and Doctors without Borders.

Betty was pre-deceased by her first husband, Sam, and her second husband, Ralph McMahon, as well as her best friend, Helen Sandel Holbrook. Betty Marie’s survivors include her three children and her stepdaughter, Grace McMahon, and their respective spouses and families, which include seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, and five step-great-grandchildren.

Private graveside services were held for family members with Art Battson officiating. In lieu of flowers, Betty requested contributions to the UCSB Library Collections Fund. Anyone with memories or comments or those who would like to have a gathering in Betty’s honor may call Helen at 964-1891.

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