In Friendship and Love to Betty Davis
By John Bertrand

“In Friendship and Love--Betty Davis”: that’s the sign-off familiar to Friends members who received thousands of letters between 2002 and 2005. Betty Davis used that closing during her tenure as President when signing the printed letters soliciting donations to rebuild the visitor center. And she did insist upon hand-signing every one of those letters, often adding a hand-written personal note. Betty Davis-Friends of the Bosque

Due almost exclusively to Betty’s love for the Bosque and to her unstoppable drive to bring to completion a campaign to replace the visitor center begun in 1997, the Christina Ann Lannan Educational Annex has been an invaluable facility at the refuge since it was opened with a ribbon-cutting on May 5, 2006.

Betty’s tragic death in December when the automobile in which she and her husband, Dana, were traveling became disabled in a snow-storm in the Gila region was reported in the January Watch.

Betty and Dana, according to founding member and early Vice President Bob Jones, became associated with Bosque del Apache and the Friends in 1999 when they volunteered to help at the Festival of the Cranes. At the Annual Meeting the following year, Betty was elected as an At-Large member of the Board and chair of the Building Committee, spearheading a renewed effort to address the visitor center issue. Betty was elected President succeeding Emerson Learn in January 2002.

With an architect’s rendering and floor plan supplied by Board member Mary Ellen Broderick’s Albuquerque architectural firm in hand, Betty called on New Mexico’s U.S. Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Joseph Skeen in Washington, D.C. in support of a request for a $5.5 million appropriation to build a new visitor center. The appropriation request failed, but Betty returned with a consolation prize, an earmark by Sen. Domenici to purchase a Caterpillar D-7 tractor and bulldozer for the refuge.

Faced with the reality that federal funding for the visitor center was not in the cards, Betty resumed in 2003 the drive to raise money from private sources with a series of direct mail solicitations to Friends members bearing her trade-marked close. Concurrently, in conjunction with observance of the National Wildlife Refuge System’s centennial in 2003, local artist Skeeter Leard was commissioned to create a decorative centennial plate to sell, with proceeds going to the building fund.

In the autumn of 2004, Betty and Vice President Jon Morrison traveled to Florida to consult with Board members of the Friends of the J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR about their successful fund-raising program. Betty also enrolled in a grant writing course offered by the National Wildlife Refuge Association.

Betty’s final direct mail letter to the Friends members in the spring of 2005 fell on fertile ground, catching the attention of Patrick Lannan, President of Lannan Foundation Board (and also a Friends member.) Lannan family members agreed that a new wing to the visitor center at Bosque would be a fitting memorial to Patrick Lannan’s daughter Christina Ann, from whose untimely death the family was recovering.

After conferring with Betty, the Foundation committed nearly half a million dollars to fund the project. According to Lannan Board member Marian P. Day: “It was Betty’s personal letter and Mr. Lannan’s heartfelt response” which resulted in Lannan Foundation’s becoming the principal donor. “Betty broke into tears when we told her the Foundation would fund the project,” Ms. Day added.

By the spring of 2005, Betty’s earlier fund-raising efforts, together with proceeds from the sale of memorial bricks begun in 1997, had accumulated in excess of $80,000 in the visitor center expansion fund, a sum large enough to leverage grants from other foundations. Following the Lannan commitment, four foundations...Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation, Messengers of Healing Winds Foundation, Thaw Charitable Trust, and Kerr Foundation…responded positively to grant proposals for additional funding directed to them by a Friends volunteer with grant-writing experience. The combined money raised paid for the entire rebuilding project, with a little left over for amenities.

Betty stepped aside as President in June of 2005, leaving Vice President Jon Morrison and then-present members of the Building Committee to work out contractual details, approve a design and complete construction of the educational wing and extensive remodeling of the original visitor center structure. Betty remained an At-Large member of the Board until her term ended in January 2006.

Betty’s philanthropy extended far beyond the boundaries of Bosque del Apache. Her trademarked “In Friendship and Love” was the close to pleas for help to many other worthy projects to which she gave her time and talent, among them Habitat for Humanity building projects and social programs for her church.

Betty was an inveterate world traveler and wildlife observer with Dana. They journeyed to the community of Churchill on the Hudson’s Bay in Canada to observe the polar bears’ pupping. Following a visit to Ghana in Africa’s southwest, Betty and Dana raised money to bring a young African here for surgery to restore his eyesight, and opened their home to him during convalescence.

The Friends, the refuge, wildlife and people everywhere were blessed by the presence of Betty Davis in their world. No doubt, Betty Davis in Heaven is busy at this moment raising funds to make improvements there!


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