Mary E. (Betty) Ortiz died peacefully at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, surrounded by loving family, on Jan. 8, 2014, just 12 days shy of her 96 birthday. Betty was the daughter of the late Jesse J. Oliver Jr. and the late Mary E. (Johnston) Oliver of Vineyard Haven. She was the beloved wife of the late Petronio (Pete) Ortiz and sister of the late Jesse J. Oliver III.
Betty was born in Newark, N.J., on Jan. 20, 1918, and came to the Vineyard when her parents moved here in 1922. As a child, she spent many summers with her grandparents in the Catskill town of Palenville, N.Y. One of her favorite childhood memories was the excitement of travelling each summer with her Grandmother Ella Johnston on the Hudson River Boat Lines up to the Catskills. They always took the boat captained by her Uncle Gerald. She loved swimming in the pools by the falls and catching pollywogs in the puddles on the rocks. It was a simpler time.
She graduated from Tisbury High School in 1935 and from the Peabody Home for Children as a practical nurse in 1938. It was there that she experienced the terrifying 1938 hurricane and the extraordinary measures that had to be taken by the staff to protect the children from the devastation. It was an experience she never forgot. Her first and only job as a nurse was at the Children’s Hospital in Far Rockaway, N.Y. After several months she realized that nursing was not her calling and returned to the Island for good.
She worked for many years as a secretary at CK Van Ryper’s Model Shop on Beach Road. It was 1942 and they were fabricating model ships for use by Navy planners during the war.
It was also during this time that she met Pete, a handsome coast guardsman, at a USO dance held at the Tisbury School gymnasium. It was love at first sight and she knew she “wanted to spend the rest of her life with him.” They were married on March 16, 1946. She once said, “I can’t remember what I was wearing, but I do recall the complete peace and happiness I felt.”
They purchased a house in Vineyard Haven and began raising a family. In addition to being a loving mother, Betty found time to be the accountant for the family business, Ortiz Signs.
Betty was a past president of the American Legion Auxiliary and the historian at the time of her passing. She was also the oldest member of the Holy Ghost Society, a member of the VFW, a past member of the Degree of Pocahontas and a member of St. Augustine’s Guild.
She was the proud recipient of the Marian Medal in recognition of her many years of devoted service teaching religious education to the children of St. Augustine’s.
In her later years she traveled to England, Ireland, Italy, France and Spain.
She was survived by a son, Vernon E. Oliver, and his wife Judith; a daughter, Donna DeBettencourt, and her husband Roy; and daughters Renee Ortiz and Margo Ortiz, all of Vineyard Haven. She was also survived by a stepson, Petronio Ortiz Jr., and his wife Carmen, of San Antonio, Texas. She was blessed with 15 grandchildren and 32 great-grandchildren.
A Mass will be held on June 14 at 9 a.m. at St. Augustine’s Church in Vineyard Haven, followed by a grave side service at Oak Grove Cemetery and a reception at the Holy Ghost Society in Oak Bluffs. Please bring a dish to share.
Contributions in her name may be made to Island Elderly Housing.