Cover photo for Betty Green's Obituary
Betty Green Profile Photo
1922 Betty 2023

Betty Green

October 17, 1922 — June 20, 2023

Betty Birch grew up in Camden Town, London – a tough place during tough years. Her Mother was killed by a trolley when she was two. Betty had four brothers, as well as a stepbrother and a half-brother.  They kept a loving, strict eye on their pretty, spirited younger sister. She was an exceptional student but could not afford to stay in school. She strode through the “Blitz” with her head up. She often took a 5-year-old neighbour, Alan, to the bomb shelters and comforted him. He was one of many devoted lifelong friends. One of her first dates was watching the blackouts from Hampstead Heath. She never refused a dance with a pilot because “they were not long for this world”.

 In 1947, she bravely voyaged alone to Toronto, Canada sponsored by the Robert Simpson Company. She worked at their flagship store at Yonge and King as a clothing buyer, sales clerk, and model – a stunning young woman with sapphire blue eyes and a love of “dressing well”. It was here that she met a shy, handsome RAF Lancaster pilot, Colin Green, also from London. Theirs was a deep, adoring love.

A Matriarch emerged when the now RCAF officer and Betty had three boys – Ian, Leigh and Martin - theirs was sometimes tough but always unconditional support and love. Betty was a traditional officer’s wife but was always busy as a volunteer nurse at the Sunnybrook Veteran’s Hospital, President of various clubs, working at upmarket clothing stores, and keeping a wonderful home. Betty ran a tight ship that had many ports as due to military postings.  It was not unusual for someone she had met on the bus, someone interesting or a recent immigrant perhaps, to be at her dinner table the same evening. She loved to sing, dance, and laugh. She was grateful for good times.

In 1979, tragedy struck when Colin died in the Florida ocean. Betty would move back to London for a couple of years working at Ontario and Canada House as an elegant social receptionist. She quickly built a new life with new and old friends including hanging out with Mordecai Richler. Betty’s love for Colin never waned but she knew she had to reinvent herself to carry on.

In 1981, Betty returned to Ottawa and a new life began when she worked devotedly as “Executive Receptionist” for the Right Honourable Joe Clark and then for Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. For her, from her Centre Block Parliament Hill perch, her job entailed being at the frontline of public service and making sure staff, Ministers, the media, Commissioners, RCMP security, and the public were in lockstep. Lord help those who wittingly or unwittingly failed to follow the plan. Many still remember her from this time and she became a “Hill” cult figure. Betty and the Green family owe a formidable debt of gratitude to Joe Clark and Maureen McTeer and to Brian and Mila Mulroney.

Betty retired in the early 90’s. She was ubiquitous in the downtown core and knew shopkeepers, bus drivers, Mayors, politicians, and wealthy entrepreneurs alike. She never had the social filters that many have. Family, friends, strangers could be shot down with a piercing gaze or an acerbic quip. She did not countenance defeatism or a lack of politesse. In 2001, her middle son Leigh, a very talented TV journalist, succumbed to cancer in Atlanta, Georgia. Leigh was married to Linda and they had a son ‘Ian Martin’. Betty deeply wounded marched through another loss. In her later years, her happiest moments were travelling and getting together with family and friends. If there was laughter, hers could be heard.

Betty lived independently until a week before her 100th Birthday last October. Over the last several months, there were plenty of ‘Betty moments’ as she fiercely fought the effects of a stroke. Betty is survived by Ian and Joy, Martin and Sheila, her grandchildren, Colin and Sam, Megan and Jason, Veronica and Pearce, Savannah and Conor, and Ian Martin and her great grandchildren, Quinn, Jack and Wyatt. 

Betty Green was “one in a million”. She believed we all are.  

In lieu of flowers, Betty would like any donations to be made to the Salvation Army Grace Hospital. The Green family will hold a ‘Celebration’ for Betty in September.

Condolences, tributes and donations may be made at www.tubmanfuneralhomes.com

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