Elizabeth Anne Rockwell, known to everyone as Betts, passed into memory at 6:50 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14, one day short of her 98th birthday. She died at home, surrounded by family, and leaving behind her shining example as an inspired and inspiring mother, dutiful daughter, and loving and supportive wife.
She is survived by five children (Susan, Robert, Jeffrey, Gregory, Alison), nine grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Born in Denver on May 15, 1921, as the only child of Louis and Alice Weiss, Betts completed her formal schooling by studying costume design at the Pasadena Playhouse, where she met her future husband, an aspiring actor named Robert Rockwell, whom everyone called Rocky.
They married in 1942 and soon began building the kind of large and boisterous family that Betts had missed as a child. With her innate sense of theatricality and holiday personality, she joined Rocky in creating a warm and welcoming home where her children and their friends could exercise their imaginations and spread their wings.
In 1956, when she and Rocky were expecting their fifth child, they moved their growing family to Pacific Palisades and lived there as an active part of the community for 43 years, nurturing their children into maturity and developing friendships that would provide them with emotional sustenance for the rest of their lives.
Betts turned her talent as a floral designer into a business that became so popular and put her work in such demand that she eventually employed her similarly talented daughter, Alison, to pick up the slack, ultimately passing the enterprise on to her.
Gradually, the children vacated the nest, some planting roots and building families in such far-flung locales as Cape Cod and Yakima, and others remaining in Southern California.
The responsibilities of maintaining a domicile that became bigger and emptier with each child’s departure led Betts and Rocky to Malibu, where they moved into a home perched on a cliff and graced with a panoramic view of the seacoast. It had been one of Betts’ many dreams to live looking out on the ocean, and like so many of her other dreams, it came true and blessed her remaining years with the comforting sounds of the restless tide and the sight of the sun tipping the waves with silver.
Rocky passed away in 2003 and Betts assumed her final role as matriarch, overseeing a home that continued to be a destination for celebrations of all kinds with friends and extended family alike, from jam sessions to a son’s wedding to holiday feasts to birthday and anniversary parties.
As an active participant in the life around her, Betts served as a mentor and second mother to many, and her presence continued as a beacon over the years to attract good times, until its light began weakening and her spirit focused on the last pressing matter of her life.
She finally took it on, though not without a struggle, and managed her passing in stages that evolved from fear to acceptance to gratitude to welcoming peace. In sum, she made the most of the many joyous years she was given, and in doing so, created the splash whose endless ripples will sustain her place in our lives and ensure that the light and love that were her legacy will never die.
Betts’ family will hold a memorial service and reception for her at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 1031 Bienvenida Avenue, Pacific Palisades, at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 15.
In lieu of flowers, if you choose, you may make a tax deductible donation in her honor to Team Prime Time, an after school sports camp and mentoring program for special needs kids. Checks may be made out to Team Prime Time and sent to Team Prime Time, 3740 Overland Ave. Suite F, Los Angeles, CA 90034, or go to the website teamprimetime.org. Please mention Betts Rockwell and For Prime Time Games on your correspondence.