Green Foothills Remembers: Betty Gerard

Betty Gerard and family
Front row: Betty Gerard (founder); Gary Gerard (founder). Second row: Vin Di Bona (son-in-law); Erica Gerard Di Bona (daughter); Annie Gerard (daughter); Steven Gerard (son). Back row, Ian McKee (grandson).

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of one of our founding board members, Betty Gerard. Betty died peacefully at her home in Palo Alto on November 16, 2022, at age 97.

Betty attended the initial meeting in 1962 that led to the founding of our organization. She and her then husband Gary had gathered at the home of Ruth Spangenberg along with 27 other people, including Lois Crozier-Hogle who was the catalyst for bringing everyone together. Betty’s daughter, Erica, fondly remembers attending picnics in the hills with Ruth and the others, while wearing their signature green hats, during the organization’s early days.

A talented writer and editor, Betty held a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, graduating in 1948 as one of just five women in her class. She held public relations and writing positions at Westinghouse, Sunset Magazine, and Raychem, before spending 22 years as a writer and editor for Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto. There, she managed a worldwide internal news service and wrote for Measure magazine before retiring in 1997.

Betty put her writing skills to use as a volunteer in local politics and for many community organizations in addition to Green Foothills. She served as Pete McCloskey’s press secretary in his 1972 campaign and, after retirement, volunteered for nine years in the legislative office of then-Senator Joe Simitian. She was also a longtime volunteer for the Palo Alto Historical Association (for which she edited several books) and World Affairs Council–Peninsula Chapter. She also did publicity for decades on the boards of the League of Women Voters of Palo Alto and Neighbors Abroad, emailing out press releases well into her 90s.

In 2012, Betty and her husband Gary who also served on Green Foothills’ board attended our 50th Anniversary Celebration at our Nature’s Inspiration event. Together they revisited the foothills they worked so hard to protect, filling both with a sense of pride and joy to have been part of such a beautiful legacy. It was truly one of her proudest achievements to have helped start Green Foothills and preserve local nature for future generations. Here children shared that sense of pride for all she had done for the local environment. That she and the other members of Green Foothills stood up and won against powerful interests and developers is an undeniable testament to the importance of grassroots activism – a value she instilled in her children and countless others.

We’re grateful for Betty’s contribution to Green Foothills, our community, and local nature. Hers is a legacy of perseverance and hope, and we are fortunate to be able to carry on with it. Our condolences go out to her family and loved ones.

A request from the Gerard Family: Donations to Green Foothills in honor of the life and legacy of Betty Gerard are much appreciated.

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