Betty Starkel Johnson

Date of Birth

January 9, 1924

Date of Death

July 30, 2017

Betty Johnson, known affectionately as Malmal, passed away peacefully at home on July 30th, surrounded by her loving family.

Betty was born on January 9, 1924 in Brookville, Indiana, to Chester and Pauline Starkel. She was the last surviving of their six children. She attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, where she received her registered nurse certificate. As a nurse, she served in many capacities, including as the school nurse in Athens, Greece, clinical nurse at Santa Barbara County Hospital, and head nurse and founding member of the Santa Barbara Rehabilitation Center, beginning in 1967.

Betty grew up in Richmond, Indiana. She met Ted Johnson while she was in nursing school, and Ted was a student at Hanover College. They fell in love. Ted sold the family’s Black Angus cow to buy her a diamond wedding ring. Married 57 happy years, they raised three daughters, and traveled the world together, living in the Midwest, Washington, DC, Athens, Greece, France, and eventually settling in Santa Barbara. After Dad’s passing in 2007, Mom found a partner and friend in George Solinas, and they enjoyed 8 years of companionship together.

Betty had a lifelong love of travel, music and adventure. She adored nature and camping with her family, and was known to roll out homemade dumplings on a picnic table. She had a special love of Yosemite, the redwoods, and the wildflowers of California. Betty shared many camping adventures with her extended family, where they braved bears, icy streams, and long road trips with hoards of small grandchildren.

An accomplished painter, she excelled at capturing colorful poppies and landscapes as well as her extensive travels in Europe and Latin America. She didn’t own house keys and her front door (like her heart) was always open. Betty was a fabulous cook and hostess. She welcomed a never-ending stream of family, friends, and strangers to her dinner table. Even at age 93, she was still cooking and baking pies for her friends and family.

Betty had a great sense of humor and made those around her feel so cherished and supported. She never stopped learning about the world around her, and was a great supporter of many causes, including Recording for the Blind, Meals on Wheels, Doctors without Borders, Smile Train, and The League of Women Voters, to name a few. She was a passionate Democrat, an advocate for health care, women’s and children’s rights, and a champion for the sick and needy.

Betty is survived by her three daughters, Cassie Jane Hendry, Lisa Freeman, and Jenny Sullivan. She will be forever remembered for her great love of her family and friends, especially her 10 grandchildren and her 20 great-grandchildren. They were the joy of her heart, and were able to spend much time with their beloved Malmal through the years.

Please join us in remembrance and celebration of Betty’s life. Donations in lieu of flowers can be made to your favorite charity or to one of the following: Doctors Without Borders, Smile Train and Quire of Voyces

Services will be held at Saint Andrews Presbyterian Church 4575 Auhay Drive, Santa Barbara, CA
2:00 PM on Sunday, September 24, 2017
Reception and refreshments to follow.


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