Betty Williams, 1918 - 2011
Betty touched so many individuals in so many different ways over her 92 years that any tribute is inherently superficial, reflecting only the tip of the iceberg.
Many knew her for her involvement in land preservation and community planning. She was a founder of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and served on the Santa Ynez Valley General Plan Advisory Committee that helped shape the county's General Plan for the Valley. Although she thought globally with the perspective of history, she was glad to work locally and live in the moment.
Betty established Buttonwood Farm as an equestrian facility, but she subsequently planted a vineyard, built a winery and created an organic farm. She not only talked sustainability, she lived it, with a modest lifestyle focused on what she could do for her family and community. She chose to occupy the small, existing ranch residence that was set into the hill, rather than build a mansion atop it.
Her Louisiana roots, formative childhood and education at Sarah Lawrence, Tulane and USC all served to create a talented and creative individual with a unique skill set and a strong sense of social responsibility. Betty was the consummate networker long before networking came into vogue.She was a patron of the arts and generous supporter of progressive causes and candidates. If she could not solve a problem herself, Betty readily enlisted the aid of others and researched possible solutions, old and new. She was more than willing to pick up the phone on behalf of a worthy cause.
A natural educator, Betty never missed an opportunity to expand the horizons - physical, mental, temporal and spiritual - of those around her. A firm believer in tradition, she was a master storyteller. Like a village elder, she brought history to life with a rich collection of personal stories she was glad to share. Betty treasured literature and art for their contribution to our humanity, and her personal collection served as old and familiar friends. She particularly enjoyed and generously shared her library. She wrote books and poetry, noted for their humor and celebration of life, whether it was enjoying good food, recognizing those around her or appreciating plants and animals.
She valued both the natural and manmade landscape and was a skilled gardener and flower arranger. Betty had the vision to plant gardens, vines and trees, planning for future harvests and future generations. At Buttonwood, she nurtured the growth and development of successive generations of residents, employees and family members.
Hospitality, humor and sharing were de rigueur for Betty, and she welcomed the opportunity to host a party and celebrate a momentous occasion - the harvest, a family birthday, the solstice or just a gathering of friends.
The Valley was and will continue to be fortunate that this inspired and generous spirit abided here a while.