Life Styles

Betty Lou, her-story

Lynnwood historian says farewell

by Luke Putvin

Left: Cheri Ryan, President of Lynnwood-
Alderwood Manor Heritage Association.
Right: Betty Lou Gaeng, Lynnwood Historian.
Lynnwood Times Photo by Mario Lotmore.
Left: Cheri Ryan, President of Lynnwood- Alderwood Manor Heritage Association. Right: Betty Lou Gaeng, Lynnwood Historian.

Local historian, genealogist and writer Betty Lou Gaeng is moving away from Lynnwood. She moved to the area with her family in 1933. Lynnwood was not a city until 1959; at the time Betty and her family moved here, it was called Alderwood Manor.

Her father, Walt Deebach, was deputy sheriff of the area for four years and also served as a volunteer fireman. After he was hurt in a hit and run, he retired and became a representative, a lobbyist and a rehabilitation officer for veterans, particularly Veterans of Foreign Wars. He had always been active in veteran work and even served in World War I, so the shift was not a sudden one. Betty, inspired by her father’s work, became involved as a teenager.

Betty had always loved writing. She would write plays for her dolls as a child. She taught herself to read and read far above her grade level in elementary school. As a teenager, she would go to veteran hospitals with her father. There, she would write letters home to their families for them. These veterans were often burned, blinded or dying and the letters Betty wrote were usually the last communication to their families. After seeing the suffering of these veterans, Betty became a pacifist.

She recalled going with her father years later to the first coffins being brought back from WWII. “What do we gain through it? There’s nothing valiant about war,” she told me. Though she is against wars, she still writes on behalf of veterans and has great empathy for them.

Betty remembered what the character of Lynnwood used to be. She used one word specifically: wilderness. Her family lived on a ten-acre chicken farm and she vividly remembered her mother, Marie Deebach, shooting a cougar off their back porch in 1933. She said that Lynnwood today is much different, specifically that it is not pedestrian safe.

Betty is an avid walker and gets her writing ideas through walking. She was injured in January of this year when jumping out of the way of an oncoming car. This resulted in limited use of her left arm since it was broken in the incident.

Betty is moving to Anchorage to be with family and friends. She is looking forward to leaving the city and having a safer place to walk. When asked what she will miss most about Lynnwood, she said her daughter.

She recently got the use of her arm back and will be able to type again soon. “God has been good to me,” she said. She is thankful for her good life and intends to keep writing.

One thought on “Betty Lou, her-story

  • This is in response to Mr. Lotmore’s letter in the April 4 edition, the comments made when he knocked on 3,000 doors in Lynnwood during his campaign: “One thing that was very common with everyone … there was a lack of community. They don’t feel connected …” That is so true! I owned a house in Lynnwood for 21 years. What a sorry place, even though the neighborhood is nice! I didn’t make a single friend, which is unusual for me; at my new residence in another town, I have already made several friends. In Lynnwood, only one neighbor across from me ever struck up a conversation and asked me to come over a couple of times, because we both had foreign exchange students. But when I invited her and her husband, she said she didn’t have time. Another neighbor downhill said hello a few times when me met at the mailbox stand, which we shared. Her Nigerian husband cut his lawn with a scythe (I am not kidding). I tried to be a good neighbor to everybody. When the mailbox stand was run over by an erratic driver making a U-turn, I paid to have it put back up and fixed. I replaced the fence I shared with an uphill neighbor with a big, hostile, barking dog, when the fence fell over. There is a law in the RCW that requires neighbors sharing a fence to pay 50/50% to install a new one, but I paid for all of it, because I didn’t want to deal with these people and their excuses. The wife came over and rang my bell, first time ever we even met, I asked her inside, she claimed they don’t have the money (but two brand-new SUVs in the driveway and a landscaper who comes around regularly). The husband, incidentally, threw thousands of cigarette butts into my front yard for the duration of my stay. I never said anything. Their kids threw rolls of toilet paper up into my evergreens. I never said anything. Their kids also left loads of trash from take-out food and the like in the street, which rolled downhill and ended up in my driveway. I never said anything. No neighbor ever said thank you. The homeowner across the streeet, one house downhill, had a new driveway put in, but never got around to cleaning up the construction debris. For several years, they had seven (seven!) wheelbarrows rusting in their front and side yards, next to unsightly mounds of cement and broken-up concrete, mixed with rubber gloves, goggles, plastic bags, and a whole lot of other garbage. They also had no curbside trash pickup until I reported them, because they kept their trash in tents set up in the front of the house, where everybody could see those eyesores. At night, you could see rats scurrying in and out of the tents. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sell my house. The man who lived downstairs didn’t have a regular job and had lots of time on his hands. The top portion of this house had burnt down a few years prior, and the contractor who rebuilt it told me that the owner didn’t have fire insurance. It took years to rebuild the upper story. BTW: This is an average Lynnwood neighborhood, not far from Perrinville and Lynndale Park, actually a beautiful neighborhood, but highly neglected these days. I don’t miss it. I only wish the city would enforce its ordinances.


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