Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 6:10 am | Fair 53º


Local News

Goleta Valley Philanthropist Betty Rosness Dies

Betty Rosness

Betty Rosness, a longtime Goleta Valley resident and philanthropic pillar of the South Coast community, died early Sunday at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Rosness, 90, passed away at 12:47 a.m. Sunday with family members by her side, according to her son, Randy Rosness.

"She went very peacefully," Rosness told Noozhawk. "We'll miss her, but she's where she wants to be."

Rosness had gone into the hospital on Saturday for some tests, and suffered a massive stroke while she was there, Rosness said.

A resident of the South Coast for more than 40 years, Rosness served on countless boards for local nonprofit organizations, and most recently was honored for her support of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission.

"She just loved people, and she wanted to help people and encourage people, and share her faith with those she came across," Rosness said of his mother. "And she was just non-stop."

Rolf Geyling, president of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, called Rosness "a force to be reckoned with," and noted that she played an instrumental role in many local organizations.

"We are who we are today because of Betty's decades of service and advocacy," he said, recalling her tenure on the Rescue Mission's board, including a stint as chairwoman.

"There are dozens of nonprofits around the community that owe her a debt of gratitude," Gayling said. "We are lucky that we are one of a small handful that she truly loved."

Kristin Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, expressed deep sadness at Rosness' passing.

"I looked up to her," Miller said.

"The fact that (her death) seems sudden is only because she was active up until the end," Miller said.

"She had been an active and vital part of Chamber of Commerce for many years, long before me," Miller said. "She consistently promoted the Goleta community and integrating it with the Goleta business community."

Goleta City Councilman Michael Bennett called Rosness "a wonderful, wonderful person," who contributed much to the community over many years.

Characteristically, Rosness found a unique way to mark her 90th birthday back in March, making a tandem skydive in Lompoc. As part of the celebration, she asked friend to skip giving her gifts, and instead donate to local nonprofit organizations.

"I prayed a lot about this before I did it," she said at the time. "I didn't want to do anything silly or stupid. … I just wanted to bring attention to these organizations and the amazing work they do."

An Oklahoma native, Rosness moved to Goleta in 1968, when she opened an ad agency in the area and began learning about the needs of local nonprofits.

Prior to that, she worked as a radio saleswoman, copywriter and broadcaster, and even as a press assistant to then-U.S.Sen. Frank Carlson of Kansas for five years.

Rosness' husband, Hank, was a U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew in the most decorated class in West Point history.

After Hank died in 2012 from Parkinson's disease, Rosness and her three sons and their wives traveled to West Point for the 70-year reunion of Hank's class.

It was a moving experience for the family to see the 12 men in Hank's class, many of them in wheelchairs or with walkers, be celebrated for their heroism, knowing that Hank's contribution was being honored as well.

Rosness was to be cremated and interred at the Goleta Cemetery, Randy Rosness said, adding that a memorial service is tentatively set for Dec. 13, at a yet-to-be-determined location.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

To celebrate her 90th birthday earlier this year, Betty Rosness made a tandem parachute jump in Lompoc. The longtime Goleta Valley philanthropist passed away Sunday. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

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