By Marlena Chavira-Medford
To many, Betty Scalice was a philanthropist and community advocate. To those who knew her well, she was also a Scrabble champion who loved a good garage sale. To all whose lives she touched with her generosity and love, she will be deeply missed.
Scalice passed away at 87 on Feb. 4 inside her home on Marview Lane, which she had lived in since the 1950s, when she and her husband built it.
“She lived and breathed that house,” recalls granddaughter Rebekah Tennis. “One of her biggest desires was to be there until her dying day, and I am so glad she was able to be. She loved that home fiercely.”
There is perhaps only one other place in Solana Beach that she loved nearly as much: Fletcher Cove Park.
“She would drive down there — or, as she put it, her car would drive itself down there — and sit and watch the children play at the park, and the families,” Tennis said. “She felt if something as good as Fletcher Cove was going on in the world, then it couldn’t be all bad.”
It was at that very park she loved so much where several of the community concerts that she funded took place. Through the donation of a house to the Coastal Community Foundation, a charitable fund was established to enhance music programs for kids, including the summer concerts at Fletcher Cove Park.
“Betty told me how much she loved Solana Beach and our oceanfront community, and that she just loved Fletcher Cove Park,” said Coastal Community Foundation advisory board member and Solana Beach councilman Dave Roberts, who recalls talking to Scalice at one of these concerts, where she was able to see for herself all the kids enjoying the music.
“She also told me how she had met [Solana Beach] councilman Mike Nichols during his first campaign for city council and when she learned that he had helped design Fletcher Cove Park, she loved him, too, for his creativity. Betty will be greatly missed by Solana Beach, but her fund at the Coastal Community Foundation will carry her memory forward with more summer concerts sponsored at Fletcher Cove Park.”
“Betty loved music and was always looking for ways to keep music in our community and schools,” added Coastal Community Foundation advisory board member and Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Joe Kellejian when he publicly recognized her passing during the Feb. 9 Solana Beach City Council meeting.
Her effort to share the gift of music with children is fitting considering those are two of the things she loved most in life.
“Grandma sensed the inseparable relationship between the growth and health of a child’s mind and their connection to the arts,” Tennis explained. “She had strong memories of the people who had made a difference in her life, like Miss Wilson, her second grade teacher who originally inspired her to appreciate music and understand its part in an overall education. She wanted to be a help to her fellow man, as she had been helped — specifically children who could not otherwise afford it. Nothing too big, nothing monumental: Just little things here and there, like paying for kids to go to a symphony, or buying sheet music for a class that could not otherwise afford it. Things like this she has been doing for years and years, even before the [Coastal Community Foundation]. Grandma was a firm believer in paying it forward.”
That depth of compassion was rooted in her own history, as Scalice was no stranger to adversity. Growing up in Dallas, Texas, during the Great Depression, times were tough, and got harder at 13 when her mother died, leaving her as woman of the house. A couple of years into college as World War II hit full throttle, she, like so many patriotic women, answered the call of Rosie the Riveter by rolling up her sleeves and joining the war effort at a California factory. It was during this time she met her husband Paul, whom she eventually divorced in the 1980s. The couple lived in New York and Texas before settling with their children in Solana Beach. She enjoyed the remainder of her life in Solana Beach, spending most days in her garden, writing poetry, or cracking a crossword puzzle.
“She loved doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, so much so, that she talked about Will Shortz, the editor, as if he was an old friend,” Tennis added.
It was largely her love of words and literature that helped her have a fruitful career as a journalist later in life. Though she had no formal training, Scalice proved she had a knack for reporting.
“I first met Betty when I was a young managing editor at Emergency Magazine in 1978 and she came on board as an associate editor,” recalled longtime colleague and friend Keith Griffiths. “Without any experience in magazines, she did an amazing job and came to join me when I started JEMS, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, in 1980. Without any formal training in journalism, she had an uncanny ability to get to the bottom of a topic, through persistent interviews, research and her love of language. Betty was a big reason JEMS was able to succeed in those early years.
“Betty and I remained friends for the next 30 years. I loved her boundless curiosity and story telling — she did like to tell her stories! Betty has been an inspiration to me. It has been a privilege to call her a colleague and a friend. I will miss her dearly.”
Scalice is survived by four children; 13 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren.
Donations can be made in her honor to the Coastal Community Foundation for the Betty Scalice Foundation, and they will go directly to enhancing music programs for children. For more information, please visit coastalfoundation.org or call (760) 942-9245.