Elizabeth (Betty) Sutro died peacefully on August 8 at her ranch in Napa at the age of 101 surrounded by family. She was a gracious and giving lady and will be greatly missed by her family and friends.
Betty was born in July 1911 to Philip Hanson Hiss and Caroline Dow Hiss at their home in New Canaan, Connecticut. She attended Tenacre Country Day School in Massachusetts, and was profiled in its 2011 newsletter, as both the school and Betty turned 100. She graduated from Dana Hall in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and was presented their distinguished alumni award in 2002. She moved to San Francisco after her marriage in October 1931 to John Sutro, who for many years was a distinguished attorney and partner at Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro. In 1935 they moved to their new home in Presidio Heights, where she raised four children, many dogs and lived until her death.
Betty will be remembered for her extraordinary caring and generosity, and for the impact she made on so many people. There were several organizations that she cared about and supported, but she was especially passionate and committed to St. Luke's Hospital (now part of the California Pacific Medical Center) and Laguna Honda Hospital.
Betty was involved with St. Luke's for over 75 years, and helped found the St. Luke's Auxiliary 60 years ago. In 1984, as further acknowledgment of her commitment to improving the human condition, she was invested into The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. In February 2009, Betty was honored at a reception for her decades-long commitment to St. Luke's.
Betty Sutro's spirit of giving has also been shown and known by her participation at Laguna Honda Hospital for the past 50 years. Betty was a founding member of the Laguna Honda Hospital Volunteers (now known as Friends of Laguna Honda), beginning her service on the board of that organization in 1957 and retiring in 2008. Throughout that time and after her retirement, she was devoted to the residents of Laguna Honda and open to answering their critical needs. In June 2010, at the opening of the newly revamped hospital, the Betty Sutro Meadow was dedicated in her honor and the meadow is now an active area for the residents of Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center as well as the residents of San Francisco. In the words of one friend, "She was a selfless act to others. She had the opportunity to give; she took it; she gave it."
In 1994, Betty endowed the first academic chair at Santa Clara University School of Law, the John A. and Elizabeth H. Sutro Professor of Law.
At the time of her death, Betty had been a member of the Town and Country Club for 66 years.
Betty loved the outdoors, and especially loved her ranch in Napa. She made the drive from San Francisco to Napa every weekend, and spent much of each summer there. There were always family and friends around. Her children and grandchildren and some of her great-grandchildren had large groups of friends visit on a regular basis. As a sampling; her son Stephen had his fraternity up for a weekend, a granddaughter's entire swim team came up, and a great-grandson's Boy Scout troop had several camping weekends there.
Betty's story would not be complete without mention of her beloved dogs. When she was 12 years old her dog, Dixie, went with her to Tenacre Country Day School, although Dixie was asked to leave almost immediately. Throughout her life she always had a dog (or three), many of which have their portraits hanging in her bedroom. She is survived by her Labrador retriever, Dusty, who was at the foot of her bed when she died.
A special thank you to her granddaughter, Margaret Mackey, NP, for all the love and care she gave "Gima" the last few years. The family also wishes to thank Bobby Cohen and Celedonia Garcia and his family for the invaluable care and support they gave her over the past 20 years, without which she would not have enjoyed those years as much as she did.
Betty was preceded in death in 1994 by her devoted husband, John, after almost 63 years of marriage. She also was pre-deceased by her beloved son, Stephen, in 1962, and her loving daughter, Caroline Mohun, in 1997. She is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth Mackey, of Los Altos, and her son, The Honorable John A. Sutro, Jr. (Loulie), of Kentfield. She also leaves behind 17 grandchildren, 42 great grandchildren, and 5 great-great grandchildren.
A service celebrating Betty's life will be held at Grace Cathedral at 3:00 P.M. on Friday, August 24, 2012, with a reception for family and friends following. Donations in Betty's memory may be made to the CPMC Foundation, 2015 Steiner Street, San Francisco, California 94115; or Friends of Laguna Honda, 945 Taraval Street, #150, San Francisco, CA 94116; or a
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Aug. 19 to Aug. 21, 2012