Betty Jo Strong, world traveler and quintessential role model loved for her positive attitude, died peacefully in her sleep, July 10, 2018, in San Diego, California.
Betty Jo (or BJ as some called her) was a longtime resident of Mission Beach who was seen walking her dog or riding her bike along the boardwalk almost daily. Her friendly smile and straight-forward talk created her great popularity among neighbors and vacationers. Everyone seemed to know and love Betty Jo.
Born Beatrice Ruth Zimmerman in Lexington, Nebraska on October 17, 1919, Betty Jo enjoyed regaling friends with stories of growing up on a farm with no electricity or running water and riding her horse to the one-room schoolhouse. She still remembered the name of her teacher—who taught all eight grades—and how they heated their house with corncobs and raised crops and animals for the food that today we buy in the supermarket. She was never boring—or grumpy. In fact, one piece of her advice: “Choose your friends wisely and avoid the grumps!”
Betty Jo was most proud of her college degree from University of California, Berkeley and her stint as one of the first women in the US Marine Corps, serving as a lieutenant. Sure, she was patriotic, but when asked why she joined, she chuckled, “It’s where the boys were!” She met her husband in the Marines and in the 1950s they started a family in Mission Beach with sons John and Scott, and daughter Ann.
In approaching life, Betty Jo turned adversity into strength, time and again. Suffering the tragic loss of her daughter in an auto accident where Betty Jo was severely injured, she learned to walk again, despite the dire medical prognosis. Over the years she traveled extensively internationally and nationally. She continued swimming, biking, yoga, and chi-gong late into her 90s. In addition, she maintained her volunteer work at the San Diego Public Library and was a popular volunteer with visitors at the USS Midway Museum.
Betty Jo’s quintessential advice: “Attitude is everything. Don’t worry about things over which you have no control.” Indeed, as her passing became inevitable, she viewed it with curiosity and as “magical.” With her interminable strength and positive attitude, Betty Jo was the paragon of her values and beliefs—and admired by everyone who knew her.