Elizabeth Lee Hills Robertson
Elizabeth Lee Hills Robertson came into this world on March 23, 1920. She was the daughter of Harry Sawyer Hills and Mildred Elizabeth Lee Hills residing in Oroville, CA. Her family called her “Betty.” In 1922 a sister Harriett was born. Sadly, their mother Mildred became very ill and died within a few days of the birth of her second daughter. Betty and Harriett were raised by their father and a loving grandmother Isabella Martin Hills and her sister Mildred Pearl Martin “Mid.” In 1928 Harry married Willow Sawyer.
Betty’s Grandparents Clark Joshua Lee and Mary Elizabeth Miller Lee (fondly called Nana and Daw) were prominent residents of Quincy, CA and as loving grandparents, they welcomed Betty and Harriett into their grand Victorian home on Jackson Street every summer. Betty often said that spending her summers in Quincy was her favorite part of her childhood and teenage years.
In 1928, Betty’s father drove his family from Oroville to Bucks Lake to look for a lot for a cabin. He chose a beautiful spot right on the lake off of Mile High Road. The cabin was built in 1934. Many weekend trips were made to and from the cabin and the two girls dreaded the hot, two hour drive up the twisty and dusty road from Oroville. Plus, there were no other children to play with at the lake. But by their teenage years, both Betty and Harriett grew to love the cabin on the lake and took turns sharing the summer months there as long as their health allowed.
In 1937 Betty graduated from Oroville Union High School and attended Stanford University for two years. It was at Stanford that friends tagged her with the name “Lee”. In 1939 she moved on to live at the Women’s Residence Club at 940 Powell Street in San Francisco and attended Saline-Johnston Business College to learn secretarial skills. Soon after she was gainfully employed as a secretary she moved to a 2 bedroom apartment with 3 other young women for five years. Two of the roommates were Elizabeth Campbell and Ruth Nadeau who became her life-long friends.
When WWII broke out and all American men and women were called upon for the war effort, Betty signed up to serve in the Red Cross. At 24 years of age, she sailed out of Fort Lawton, WA in a convoy headed to Honolulu. Here she was trained in a nurse’s camp for 6 weeks which included physical fitness exercises and jungle survival. After her training, she was sent to Guam to work in the Army’s 204th Division General Hospital, a 2,000 bed facility. She said the daily operations were very much like the TV series M.A.S.H. She continued working with our injured soldiers confined in the hospital another 6 months after the war ended, and arrived back in the states in March of 1946.
A romance that started while at Stanford was rekindled after her return and on April 26, 1947 Lee Hills married Richard Worcester Robertson in Carmel. The couple resided in Los Altos where Dick attended Law School. After Dick passed the bar they moved to Glendale, where, in 1949 their daughter Linda Lee was born. Soon after, they settled in Santa Barbara. And in 1951 a second daughter Lauren Lynn arrived.
Although Lee might say she was “just a housewife” while raising her daughters, her passion was reading cookbooks and becoming a gourmet cook. As a prominent attorney, her husband was a strong supporter of local politicians who were frequently entertained at dinner parties hosted by Lee in their beautiful Santa Barbara home.
In 1979 Lee and Dick divorced and she began a new chapter in her life. First, she made the decision to rent rooms in her home to young women and continued to be a “housemother” for 20 years, which she dearly loved.
At the age of 63 she enrolled in the La Belle Finishing/Modeling School and enjoyed her engagements in professional modeling. She acquired a dress style of her own that set her apart from others. Lee studied nutrition extensively and followed a regimented diet. She also took on a dedicated exercise program in mid-life. During her stays at the Bucks Lake Cabin, she took daily swims and in the morning would walk 4 miles to the dam and back timing herself on her walk. At home in Santa Barbara, she would walk 4 miles or more in city blocks.
Lee became a recovering alcoholic and through the program she was a role model; sponsoring and mentoring many young people through the recovery process. Lee acquired many dear friends who became more like family through the years. At the time of her death, she was celebrating her 45th year of sobriety. Along the way, Lee adopted the philosophy to be a more accepting person by summarizing a situation with the word “Whatever”, which became her motto.
In 1982, cousin Kimberlee gave her the name of “Auntie Mame” because it was so fitting to her lifestyle; other family members began calling her Auntie Mame as well. For years, Mame drove her car with a personalized license plate which read “Antmame.”
In 1994 she felt it was time to leave her home and move into a lovely apartment in a retirement setting at Samarkand. In no time at all, the Samarkand residents became well aware of the new kid on the block. Through Lee’s persistence, the garbage cans which stood out in the open were soon hidden by a more attractive wall and Lee became known as “The Queen of Trash” later shortened to simply “The Queen.”
For her 75th birthday she hosted a lavish party at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Santa Barbara themed “A 1940’s Affair to Remember” and indeed it was! With men in black tie and women in mink and pearls, the evening remains in the Lee and Robertson family history as the party of a lifetime.
At Christmas, family and friends expectantly awaited Lee’s annual Christmas card. She was a gifted storyteller and each year her cards contained a photo newsletter as well as a shared memory revealing a different chapter of her life. She put a lot of time and effort into her cards sending out over 100 cards every year. And in turn, she treasured the cards she received.
Her Grandmother, Nana, taught her that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. And so, in Chase Palm Park on Cabrillo Blvd in Santa Barbara there is already a memorial bench that reads: Lee Hills Robertson “A wild, wacky, wonderful woman lives on in our hearts.” And indeed she does.
Lee is survived by daughter Linda Robertson Jordan of Fruita, Colorado, granddaughters Meghan Jordan, Stephanie Jordan and great-grandson Malachi as well as numerous cousins, nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her daughter Lauren Robertson Wells and her sister, Harriet Smith.
Lee was the proud matriarch of the Lee family and from time to time needed to gently remind family members of her role. She made a great difference in of our lives and she will be greatly missed.
Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight. A private Celebration of Life will be held at a future date. In lieu of flowers, Lee has requested that donations be made to either Alcoholics Anonymous Central Office 14 West Anapamu Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105 or Plumas County Museum 500 Jackson Street, Quincy, CA 95971.