In Memoriam: Bette Cope, beloved 40-year former Rancho Santa Fe resident

Elizabeth (“Bette”) Cope passed away peacefully on Jan. 3, 2013, at the age of 89. Bette was born Nov. 18, 1923 in Lowell, Mass., the first of Hazel and Robert Burns’ three children. The family moved to Bangor, Maine, when Bette was 10. She graduated from Bangor High, and is a proud alumnus of Westbrook College, Portland, Maine.

The Burns family relocated to Southern California when Bette was 20. Two years later she became a stewardess for United Airlines, based in San Francisco. Bette always enjoyed telling stories of those early days of commercial aviation.

In 1953, she married William (Bill) Cunningham. They had a successful insurance company in Pasadena, Calif. After Bill passed away, Bette relocated to Rancho Santa Fe. She lived there for 40 years and was active in many civic, social and political endeavors, including the RSF Republican Women, Fed., the RSF Garden Club, and the Village Presbyterian Church. Bette believed in the causes of the San Diego Navy League and the USO, which support active-duty servicemen and their families domestically and overseas. Two or three times a year, at the San Diego USO, Bette organized and cooked dinners for up to 300 members of military families. She also created and organized an annual “spa day” for wives of servicemen overseas.

Bette enjoyed multiple careers in insurance, real estate, interior design, and retail, when she owned The Country Squire Gift shop.

In 1987, she married Cmdr. Alfred Cope (USN), a long-time friend and Pearl Harbor survivor. Alfred and Bette enjoyed traveling to Savannah, Ga., Alfred’s birthplace, and to other parts of the South to visit family and friends. They also attended many Navy reunions over the years. They both loved dancing, entertaining friends, traveling, and spending time together at home. Alfred passed away in 2004.

As much as she loved Rancho Santa Fe, after a few years Bette realized she needed to be closer to her niece and nephews in Northern California. In 2009, she moved to Saint Helena, where she became involved with the First Presbyterian Church of St. Helena, local Republican Women, Fed., the Rianda House, and the local social life.

In November 2012, she organized an elaborate 89th birthday party with cocktails, dinner, music, and dancing. What a fun gala. She had a great time that evening.

Ever cheerful and positive, Bette always had something complimentary to say. Please share your fond memories of Bette with the family by visiting

Bette is survived by her niece, Bonnie Schoch of St. Helena, nephews Bruce Nye (Risa) of Oakland, Christopher Nye (Elaine) of Alameda, granddaughter, Cyndy Rhamy (Michael) of Valley Center. She was pre-deceased by her sister Marilyn Nye and brother Robert Burns.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at 2 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 1428 Spring Street, St. Helena, Calif. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that friends and family make a donation in Bette’s name to The Rianda House Senior Activity Center, 1475 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574 or the charity of your choice.

A Rancho Santa Fe celebration of Bette’s life is being planned. Details soon.