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Betty Jeanne Thrasher


1926 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Betty Jeanne Thrasher Obituary
September 28, 1926 - January 31, 2016 Betty Thrasher, a loving sister and Auntie, as well as an immensely talented vocalist, peacefully departed this world in Glendora on January 31, 2016, at the age of 89. Betty was truly a unique personality; witty, engaging and warm. Her quick throaty laughter was infectious and her "joie de vivre" will be missed by all who were lucky enough to have known her. Growing up during the Great Depression, Betty and her older sister, Mary Jane, were separated from their parents and two younger sisters, Dee and Shirlee, due to the hard financial realities of the times. Raised by their father's mother on the Great Plains of South Dakota, Betty and Mary Jane formed a remarkable bond and a closeness that never diminished. Grandma Thrasher, a strong individualist surviving on the Badlands, instilled in the girls the inner strength and self-reliance that Betty and Mary Jane exhibited as single women all through their lives. When Betty was a pre-teen in the mid-1930's, the Thrasher family was once again reunited, settling in Cincinnati. It was there that Betty and Mary Jane, along with their youngest sister, Dee, would spend their evening hours singing along to the radio, imitating their favorite singers, The Boswell Sisters. The innate vocal talent of the young Thrasher girls was obvious to everyone who heard them, with pure and natural harmonies that were uncanny for such young and untrained singers. Betty had the strongest voice of the group. A soprano with a warm quality and full timbre, Betty's rich tone and perfect pitch control made her the obvious choice for the lead singer, handling the song's melody. Mary Jane, the oldest sister and arranger for the group, sang the middle harmony, mostly just under Betty but often the high harmony above the melody, while baby sister, Dee, sang the low harmony, the hardest assignment in vocal music. Since money was tough to come by in the Depression and Prohibition had ended, Betty's parents would often bring the young girls into local bars and saloons where they would entertain the surprised patrons for tips, singing such adult-themed songs as "I Found a Million Dollar Baby." In 1938, Cincinnati radio station, WLW, whose powerful signal reached most of the eastern United States, hired the Thrasher Sisters to perform on the station's Sunday morning radio program for the next four years. Want to go back in time and hear the girls' beautiful and vivacious harmonies on the radio? Go to this URL: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWBnSulThos) (Fountains of Fun 1942 - WLW) At the outbreak of World War II, the Thrasher family moved to Los Angeles, and the Thrasher Sisters continued their quest for stardom, appearing on a number of popular radio and television programs. In 1949, Jerry Fielding, a talented local band leader, began to help the girls, offering career advice and promptly booking them for a six-month gig at the Pearl City Tavern near Honolulu, Hawaii, under their new name, The Morgan Sisters, where they also participated in a number of recording sessions. Allow the girls to live again by listening to them on YouTube.com as they sing two of the songs they recorded in Honolulu - "My Waikiki Girl" and "Fish and Poi." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-8KLf4t-9s) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_CFXrRUjQ) In the early 1950's, after flirting with fame, the Morgan Sisters disbanded when youngest sister, Dee, left the group to wed Danny Barcelona, a Hawaiian drummer she had fallen in love with during their stint in Waikiki, and who later became a long-time member of Louis Armstrong's band. Check out his drum solo on Armstrong's "Stompin' at the Savoy" on YouTube.com. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pomAJxg3t0) In 1956, Betty and Mary Jane were hired by the L.A. Times, where Betty became a salesperson in the Automotive Division, and Mary Jane joined the Accounting Department. A natural at sales, Betty brought the same commitment and conviction to the job that had characterized her singing. The company soon recognized Betty's intelligence and strong work ethic by promoting her to Automotive Division Sales Manager. Betty later became one of the original members of the newly-formed Agency Division, where she also excelled. From the 1950's through the 1980's, Betty and her sisters, Mary Jane and Dee, who had also joined The Times, entertained Times employees with their tight and complex harmonies at countless company functions and holiday parties until their retirement in 1988. An avid traveler and animal lover, Betty and her sister were also very generous and made sizable donations to a number of charitable organizations every year. Betty's rich and lovely voice, irresistible smile and warm, caring manner will be missed by all who knew and loved her. Betty was preceded in death by her sisters, Shirlee, Dee and Mary Jane, and leaves behind her nieces Dana Barcelona-Bonner (Bill) and Jodi Barcelona (Mike Slayton), nephews Norman Lim and Dominic Rigoli, grandnieces and nephews Kara Casiello (Anthony), Breeann, Dominic, Matthew, and Michael, and great grandnieces and nephews Jacob, Dominic Jr. and Maleia. Family and friends will gather soon to celebrate the life of our dear Aunt Betty.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, 2016
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