Former Rancho Santa Fe resident Betty Mabee’s philanthropic legacy lives on with the ‘Second Hand Rose’ fundraiser


By Leslie Carter

The late Betty Mabee was almost equally well known locally for the time she spent devoted to her favorite charities as she was in her involvement in the breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses. She passed away in 2010, but since the mid-1980s the Aseltine School in San Diego has had the support of the Rancho Santa Fe resident.

She began her earnest efforts to aid the Aseltine School ( when one of her grandchildren was enrolled there in the 1980s, and her influence is still felt as the founder of the Angels of Aseltine Auxiliary, which continues the fundraising effort for the school that serves children with learning disabilities.

Friday, June 8, witnessed another edition of “Second Hand Rose,” the Angels of Aseltine event that features a fashion show with models from the auxiliary’s membership. This year a selection of designer fashions from Bob Mackie, Escada, Ungaro, Louis Feraud and St. John — which were once worn by Betty — was donated by the Mabee Family to support the school that was close to her heart.

The “Second Hand Rose” festivities have moved from hotel to hotel in San Diego over the years, but its last few events have been held at the Town and Country Convention Center.

Kimberlin Brown, an actress known for her work on such daytime dramas as “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Auxiliary member Bonnie Wainwright sang the now traditional “Second Hand Rose” song and, during a break for the models, there was a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Chrissy Burns) singing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend.”

After the fashions were paraded, guests adjourned to another room to purchase fashions for themselves that were going at extremely reasonable prices.

About $20,000 was raised for Aseltine School that day. The nonprofit in Hillcrest serves children who can’t function in a regular public school, and accepts student from K through 12. The teacher ratio is one to 11 students.

During the mid-1980s, as a way to earn money for the school, Betty proposed that the Angels run a resale shop, and she was determined to call it “Second Hand Rose.”

Flory Sell, another Rancho Santa Fe resident, had been a close friend of Betty’s for many years. After starting out using a garage in back of the school, she and Betty oversaw the beginnings of the Chula Vista shop. It was a rousing success in raising money for the school for close to 20 years. The space was donated by John Mabee with the assurance that he would take it back if it didn’t make money.

A large group of enthusiastic volunteers kept the shop running successfully for a number of years, but eventually the core group started feeling that they were at retirement age, and the store closed.

But the name lives on in the Angels of Aseltine’s fashion event.

Flory and her husband became so close to Betty and John that they followed them into the horse business in a “small way.” With the Mabees they made excursions to Kentucky, Ireland and Paris where they sat in the Aly Khan’s box.

“They were special wonderful people and opened up a wonderful world to us. I miss them to this day,” said Flory.