Betty Jane Landeen


Image of Betty Landeen

Betty Landeen – July 2017

Betty Wedding 1941

Betty died at her Kirkland home on November 3, 2017 with her daughter by her side. She was 95 years old. Born in Portland, Oregon to Chris and Beatrice Steres on June 2, 1922, she attended Milwaukee High in the class of 1939, where she was a Drum Majorette and active in the Drama program. After graduation she attended the University of Oregon (class of 1943) in Eugene, OR, where she studied literature and planned to become a librarian.  At U of O she met Gordon Landeen and they were married in 1941, just months before Pearl Harbor Day, when everyone’s plans changed. Once The War started, Betty followed Gordy around the U.S. to wherever he was stationed, until he was sent overseas and she returned home to Milwaukee OR. After the war, Betty and Gordy bought a house in Portland’s Hillsdale neighborhood. Betty worked for the Furniture Mart and, later, for Monsanto as a secretary until her daughter Dorothy was born in 1955, followed quickly by her son Eric in 1956.

Betty 1928

At home with small children, Betty joined the Portland Great Books society, where she made lifelong friends. She quickly became a group leader and began organizing the annual Great Books Shakespeare trip to see and discuss plays at the Oregon Shakespearean Festival in Ashland Oregon. After 25 years, others took over coordinating this event, but Betty continued to participate every year until her health prevented her in 2010. She was extremely proud that not only many of the original Great Booksers continued to make the annual trip to Ashland, but their children and grandchildren had been “hooked” on Shakespeare, too.

In 1966, Gordy was transferred to a job in Seattle and the family bought a house in Kirkland. Betty was introduced to the Seattle Opera Guild and quickly became a volunteer, working in the ticket office, helping with fundraisers, presenting Opera Previews at the library, hostessing visiting singers, even acting as an Extra in the crowd scene of “The Crucible”. A self-described “opera buff”, she had the opportunity to meet many of her opera star idols, and became close friends with a few of them. In the mid-seventies when her youngest entered college, she left the Guild for employment with MacPherson’s Realty, but she kept her season tickets and the close friends she had made, arranging several opera tours to Europe with these friends.

Betty, Ashland, OR -1980

The death of her son Eric in 1977 was a terrible loss that she never quite recovered from.

Travel was another of Betty’s passions and it became a way of coping with tragedy. She had a long list of places she had wanted to visit ever since she was a child, and she got to visit most of them. Her first overseas trip was in 1973, touring Western Europe with Gordy. Over the next 25 years, she traveled back to Europe, then England, Italy, Scandinavia, Russia, Eastern Europe, Egypt, the Middle East, and many trips to Greece. Her father was from Greece, and in his hometown village she finally met her aunts and Uncle Dino and many cousins.

When Gordy retired, they added Dixieland Jazz Festivals to their activities. Betty preferred opera, but loved to dance and party with a fun crowd, which the Jazz scene certainly provided.  Betty retired from MacPherson’s in 1987, not long after her first grandchild, Nevin, was born. Her second grandchild, Corbin, was born in 1990. After her retirement, Betty got involved again with Great Books, this time with the Bellevue chapter, and with Friends of the Kirkland Library. With these friends, she started two book clubs, one of which still continues over 25 years later, and with which she was involved until the day she died. She never got to become a librarian, but she spent much of her life introducing people to books, literature and Shakespeare.

Betty was married to Gordon Landeen for 64 years until his death in 2005. She leaves behind her daughter Dorothy Landeen, grandsons Nevin (Melisa) and Corbin Root, nieces and nephews, and cherished friends. She was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Chris Steres, and her son Eric.

At her insistence, there was no service. If you would like to send a memorial in her name, we suggest Evergreen Hospice, Seattle Children’s Hospital, or any non-profit promoting literature or music for children.

Betty loved to tell the many stories of her life and adventures. Please add your stories of her life to our guestbook.

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