Betty Woodbury, 94, died peacefully in her sleep on April 22, 2011. Born Elizabeth Van Ginkel on Nov. 1, 1916, she grew up with her parents Hendrik Van Ginkel and Parthena Grace Ellington on an orange grove in the heart of California’s San Gabriel Valley. She graduated from the University of Redlands in 1938 and immersed herself in social work before her 1939 marriage to Norman E. Woodbury.
As a young mom in Sacramento during wartime, Betty canned peaches for General Eisenhower and was part of the Civil Air Patrol. In 1955 the Woodburys moved to Davis, where they built one of the first homes in Elmwood. Betty lived there from 1958 to 2001, making her mark as an active volunteer with the PTA and the League of Women Voters. Until last year, she returned to Elmwood every Monday morning for coffee with her former neighbors.
As a child, Betty would climb into the boughs of the orange trees to read — a lifelong passion. Southern California was segregated in those days, and she remembered hearing folk songs being sung by the Mexican-Americans trucked in from Azusa to pick the fruit. These songs, later recorded by Linda Ronstadt on the album “Canciones de mi Padre,” were among her favorites. She also loved jazz and blues, especially on the piano. In 1974 she started working in the children’s room of the Davis library and remained there until her retirement in 1987.
Betty thrilled in art and her natural green thumb. She got the travel bug late in life and fell in love with Paris, which she visited nine times. Her interest in art history motivated her to audit many classes at UC Davis and take numerous Crocker Art Gallery tours to the East Coast and Davis Art Center tours to Europe. She was a volunteer at the original Pence Gallery and for many years was part of a team of volunteer propagators at the UCD Arboretum. In Elmwood, she will always be known as “the plant doctor.”
She leaves her four children, Susan Woodbury Morris of Sacramento; Karen Woodbury of Cornish Flat, N.H.; John Woodbury of Boise, Idaho; and Steven Woodbury of Clarkston, Wash. She also leaves her grandchildren Seth, Sarah, Derrek, Katelyn, Kezia, Jordan, Luke, Mariah, Isaac and Jaz Woodbury, as well as her great-grandchildren Nathan Meeks and Eloise Duthie.