Written by Bryan Finnigan
“Number please… I’ll give you information…” Betty Jane said as she playfully channeled a younger version of herself. With a laugh and a roll of her eyes she sat on the edge of her bed and recalled the time she worked for the phone company.
“I worked as a telephone operator right after high school. I didn’t work there too long. I was living in Long Beach at the time and just graduated from Poly Tech High School. I enjoyed school, except for math. I really enjoyed studying History. Long Beach was my favorite place to live. I loved looking at the ocean and all the ships lined up along the coast.”
Betty Jane Pearce was born in Ontario California. Her mother moved to California from Colorado to find work and avoid the cold winters. After settling in Southern California Betty’s mother took a job packing oranges while Betty Jane recalls her father working in the military. “I think my father was in the Navy. He may have retired as a Commander….I know Dad liked boats.”
A large oil painting of a masted ship hangs on Betty Jane’s wall. A large ship effortlessly cutting through rough waters, protecting the framed pictures of her children and grandchildren that are proudly displayed on her nightstand. A love for ships and the ocean is something that has been passed down from Betty Jane’s parents.
“My parents bought that painting during their first visit to Tijuana. Now I have it on my wall. I love the ocean. And swimming.”
While Betty Jane has an eye for the sea it was during a USO show in Long Beach that she caught the eye of a young sailor.
“The USO shows were fun. Lots of entertainment. There was music, parties, comedians, all sorts of things to do. That’s where Jerry came up to me and said ‘Hello there.’ And that was it. We had a few dances and then married a year later…. He went about 10 years ago and I think we were married for about 30 years…I’m not sure.”
Betty Jane and Gerald “Jerry” Pearce were married in a small church with only a few members of family and friends in attendance. As a Navy couple, their life was always on the go and practically served their life together.
She and Jerry moved up and down the coast and have been to places such as Birmingham Washington and Norfolk Virginia where she and Jerry drove cross country. “I liked the whole trip. I loved seeing new places and new people. We would stop overnight at a Motel then continue on the next day.”
Betty Jane and Jerry raised three children together; sons Dick and Joe and daughter Mary. Raising children was easy for Betty Jane. “They were great kids. Really good. We would play games and travel to the beach when they were young.”
She loves to stay active and can’t get enough crossword puzzles but admits drawing the line at the New York Times version of the game. “Don’t even try those!” When she’s not busy reading mystery novels or the Peanuts cartoons she can finish a book of crossword puzzles in a matter of weeks. A skill inherited from her mother who was also a fan of word games.
In the corner of her room stands a Teddy Bear. Dressed in full Navy uniform it stands at attention, ready to serve. Around its neck are Jerry’s military dog-tags. Still in sight they hang around the neck of the Teddy Bear as a reminder of a life well lived.
“I used to call him my Teddy Bear. So there he is….”
She looked at the Teddy Bear from the edge of her bed and continued to struggle with how many years they had been married. I watched patiently as Betty Jane made attempts to give me an accurate number. It was then I realized that the reason it was hard for her to remember how long they were together is because they never left each other’s side.
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