On April 18, peacefully and gracefully, Betsy Thies took leave of this life with her family by her side. She was born on Christmas Day 1928 in Mt. Clemens, Michigan, the second child and first daughter of Stuart and Marjorie Green. She and her brother and sister grew up in Mt. Clemens, a small town on the shores of Lake St. Clair. Her stories of growing up included how she, at age four, was so persistent in following her big brother to school every day that the school finally relented and let her sit in class; memories of skating on the Clinton River during the winters; and tales of working in the family jewelry store.
After high school she attended Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) in East Lansing, where she majored in Social Services. It was at MSC that she met Bill Thies, a handsome sailor going to school on the GI Bill, who became her loving life partner.
The couple married in 1950 and began their life together in Geneva, Illinois. World events and Uncle Sam soon intervened, and Bill was called back to active duty in the Navy because of the Korean Conflict.
This began several nomadic years, with the young family — which now included two daughters —making brief homes in Virginia, Florida, Michigan, California, and Massachusetts.
When Bill left active duty, the family settled in suburban Boston, and continued to expand, adding two more daughters. Betsy devoted herself to raising her daughters; she also was an engaged member of Hancock Congregational Church, taught at Community Nursery School, led Brownie troops, and attended classes at Northeastern University.
In 1968 the family moved to Santa Barbara. It didn’t take Betsy long to become involved with her new community, becoming active at the First Congregational Church, working at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden for nearly half a century, serving on the Santa Barbara Environmental Review Board, becoming a cherished member of the women’s service organization PEO, acting as a poll worker election after election — the list goes on. Somehow she also found time to take classes at Santa Barbara City College, to plant and maintain magnificent vegetable and flower gardens, and to continue being the absolute mainstay of the family, the one everybody depended on.
Betsy was a people person in the best sense of the term. Everyone responded to her innate kindness and decency, and admired her competence. What Betsy set out to do, she did, and she did it well. She had a strong creative streak, expressed in calligraphy, sewing, and in the gorgeous wreaths and other items she crafted for the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Guild.
If you would like to honor Betsy’s memory, reach out and help another person, tend a garden, create something beautiful. All her long life, she did those things, and more.
Betsy was predeceased by Bill Thies, her husband of 53 years, her brother Don, and her sister Marjorie.
She is survived by her four daughters, Nancy, Janet, Avis, and Marjorie; ten grandchildren, Tania, Stuart, Chelsea, Tom, Clay, Lena, Emily, Will, Sara, and Maggie; and five great-grandchildren, Myuna, Vos, Enoah, Weylyn, and Cielo; as well as many loving nieces and nephews. A celebration of Betsy’s life will take place when Covid-19 restrictions have been removed and friends and family can assemble in person. Memorial donations can be directed to the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, or the charity of your choice.