Betty Ellen Munn
The cozy house on La Mirada Avenue was always tidy and the door was always open. No key required. In the kitchen, a casserole was likely baking in the oven or a hearty stew simmering on the stove. Music might have been playing and there may have been kids, family or visitors parked at the wooden dining room table chatting away.
And at the center of it all the hustle and bustle of daily life was Betty Munn. Like a fine-tuned music conductor leading an orchestra, Betty ran the show, and she did it with care, precision and unwavering love.
Betty Ellen (Stubblefield) Munn was born on January 3, 1934, in Lone Grove, Oklahoma on the family farm to Herman and Perna Stubblefield.
She entered her heavenly home on January 31, 2023, with her family at her side.
She was 89.
“Her energy was just amazing. She was an old-school Betty Crocker type,” recalls her son Scott, now 64. “And she was the one who had to pull it all together.”
“When we were young, I loved listening to her play the piano. We would beg her to play the Boogie Woogie song. She would get her fingers warmed up and play her heart out,” remembers her daughter Laura, now 61.
Betty’s life started out as a simple one on the family farm, but she didn’t live there long.
Two years after her birth the family moved to Fillmore, California in Ventura County.
This was during the depression and Betty’s father wanted a change from farmwork, so he came West and took a job grafting trees.
Betty’s brother Bill Stubblefield remembers the times when he and his sister would search for used milk jars worth 5 cents and used coke bottles worth 2 cents to save up enough money to buy a 5-cent ticket to a matinee movie at the local theater.
In 1941 the family moved to Van Nuys, California where Betty’s father enrolled in welding school and later took a job with Western Airlines handling defense work during World War II.
Growing up, Betty enjoyed playing the piano, writing poetry, reading and playing girls softball, where she was the captain of the team while attending Van Nuys High School.
In 1947, when Betty was 13, her sister Susan was born, and the young Betty helped her mom with the new baby while continuing her studies.
Betty graduated high school in 1951 and then took classes at Los Angeles City College. She also worked as a waitress at a Van de Kamps restaurant and later did clerical work at Lockheed Martin.
A few years later in 1954, Betty met the love of her life, Douglas Munn while skating at a roller rink with her girlfriend Phyllis Albers.
The couple were married the following year in a joint ceremony with Doug's brother Bill and Betty's friend Phyllis. The two brides wore identical wedding dresses.
Almost a year later their first child, David, was born and Betty took to running the household and taking care of the new baby while Doug worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach building passenger planes.
When a job came open with the company to head up fabrication and repair work on fighter jets at a plant near Lancaster, California, the young family settled in a house in the city. Over the next several years, the Munns completed their family with the births of Scott, Laura and Damon.
Damon, now 60, and the youngest of the four kids shared a birthday (and often a cake) with his mom and they had a special bond because they spent their days together while the older children were in school.
With the house quiet, she’d park Damon in front of cartoons on television and get her housework underway.
“She’d put on a bandana and get the ironing board out and then do her housework. And then we’d go to friend’s houses for coffee and then to Wienerschnitzel for a mustard dog.”
As the kids grew up, they took family camping and boating trips, were active in the church, where Betty taught Sunday School, played piano and together with Doug instilled in their children the importance of God as a lifetime anchor.
In 1971, the family headed north to Oroville. California to operate the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in the small city. They quickly made new friends and found a new church while settling into the community.
Betty and Doug remained at the home on La Mirada Avenue where their children were raised, and it wasn’t long before the first of what would be 13 grandchildren arrived. Her family says they were a great joy to her, and she loved them dearly. Later on, Betty was a great grandmother to 27 children.
Betty and Doug continued their love of travel driving to Massachusetts to visit their daughter Laura and staying in many state and national parks along the way. Betty also took trips to Europe and the Caribbean with her sister Susan.
But through it all Betty never missed a long and heartfelt phone conversation with her daughter, a friend’s birthday, a chance to spend time with a grandchild or an opportunity to make a homecooked meal for her family.
“She was the matriarch of all things, that was her personality,” remembers her 66-year-old son David, adding that what he misses most about his mom is the “sound of her voice when she called my name.”
Betty’s son Scott has something he misses about his mother too.
“Not being able to go home, that would be something I really miss. You were welcome there anytime. They had an open door for all us kids anytime.”
Betty was preceded in death by her husband Douglas and her grandson Daniel Michael Biron.
She is survived by her children David (Julie) of Oroville; Scott (Glenda) of El Dorado; Laura (Stephen) of West Hyannisport; and Damon (Kristin Bender) of Danville; 13 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren. She is also survived by her brother Bill Stubblefield (Shirley) of Yuba City and sister Susan Garcia of Camarillo, California, 7 nieces and 1 nephew.
A celebration of life will be held on May 19 at 4 p.m. at the Evangelical Free Church, 3785 Olive Hwy. in Oroville. All are welcome.