Friends, family celebrate life of Pocket resident Betty Dias

Dias family members attend the celebration of life of Betty (Lorbeer) Dias on Sept. 30. / Photo by Robert Niederbrach

By LANCE ARMSTRONG

The life of Betty Maude (Lorbeer) Dias, a longtime Pocket resident who was known for her strong-willed demeanor and determination to live life in her own manner, was celebrated on Sept. 30 by about 50 of her friends and family at the Pocket-based ranch she cared for until earlier this year. She died on July 15, three days shy of her 93rd birthday.
Born in San Francisco as the only child of auto mechanic Wayne Lorbeer and his wife, Vail Lorbeer, Betty spent the early part of her youth in that city and Yerington, Nev. before making her home in Sacramento.
Betty’s upbringing was a time in which she dealt with various challenges, including the death of her father in about 1935.
Betty gained an early love for reading, which she would carry with her for the remainder of her life.
As an inheritance from her father, Betty received $1,800, which, at the age of 19, she proudly used toward the purchase of her own home at 5501 11th Ave. in Tahoe Park. The inheritance amount was previously $10,000, but due to various expenses, it dwindled to that lesser amount by Betty’s 18th birthday when she experienced her payday.
It was also around that time when she became one of the many female civilian workers who were hired to work at McClellan Field, which was later renamed McClellan Air Force Base.
After passing her junior mechanics test, she followed in her father’s footsteps as a mechanic, but in a different field: working on superchargers, oil pumps and fuel pumps for P-38 fighter planes. It was through that work that she would earn the nickname “P-38 Betty.”
Although one might imagine that a woman would accept any personal likening to the World War II icon, Rosie the Riveter, as an immediate compliment, Betty shrugged off the comparison. She instead assured that her responsibilities were much more extensive at McClellan Field than that of Rosie, who solely worked on a production line.
After her first marriage to William A. Allen – who she married in Reno on July 25, 1942 – ended in divorce, Betty met Robert T. “Bob” Dias, who she described as the “love of her life.”
They were married by the Rev. Archie Greene in the Boulevard Chapel at 3720 Folsom Blvd. in East Sacramento on Dec. 14, 1947 – only 17 days after revealing the news of their engagement in the North Sacramento home of Betty’s aunt, Lottie Zingg.
The reception was held at Betty’s Tahoe Park home, where she lived with Bob following their honeymoon in San Diego.

Betty and Bob Dias relax in front of the ranch’s barn. / Photo courtesy of Dias family

Bob and Betty would eventually raise four children: Terry, Bob, Jr., Claudia and Michele.
And during the 1950s, Betty served as room mother chairman of the Tahoe School PTA.
During the early 1960s, Betty and Bob left their Tahoe Park home to become original residents of the Pocket’s Greenhaven 70 development, which is located immediately south of The Trap, the historic bar at 6125 Riverside Blvd.
Betty later purchased the historic Pocket area, Portuguese family ranch, house and barn of Margaret (Rodgers) Machado, daughter of Albert Rodgers, the home’s original owner. And through an arrangement with Machado, Betty allowed her to continue living in the property’s 1881 home until her death, which occurred at the age of 84 on June 4, 1978.
It was on that property where Betty enjoyed raising animals and growing vegetables and fruit.
And some of that produce was regularly sold by Bob, who at separate times served as the director of purchasing for the General Produce Co. and general manager of Cal Fresh Produce.
Bob was also active in various organizations, including the Southside Improvement Club, the Cabrillo Club and Sacramento Elks Lodge No. 6.
Both Betty and Bob enjoyed weekly dinners at the Elks Lodge building on Riverside Boulevard at Florin Road, and dining at their favorite, local eatery, Shari’s Café and Pies.
Some of Betty’s closest friends were longtime employees of Shari’s, where she was famously known for giving a ribbon-bound dollar bill to each employee at Christmastime. However, last year, Betty resorted to distributing four quarters to each employee.
And in a humorous episode last December, a new Shari’s employee mistakenly believed Betty’s dollar donation was a tip, and responded, “I’m not your waitress.”
As a longtime presence at her ranch, Betty gained a reputation for protecting her land by a variety of means.
When the topic of a proposed, public bicycle path running along the private, fenced off portion of the levee on the western side of her property became a hot topic, Betty did not shy away from expressing her views on the matter.
For instance, in 1997, Betty wrote a letter to The Sacramento Bee regarding this issue.
In that letter, she posed the question: “Would the people who advocate having the city take our land with an expense to the taxpayers of millions (of dollars) be willing to give up some of their property that they worked and saved for?”
Known by many as a sharpshooter of different types of guns, Betty was known to shoot squirrels out of trees on her property with fairly accurate precision.
During Betty’s celebration of life at the ranch, Matt Dias, one of her grandchildren, recalled his grandmother’s wild side.

Betty Dias holds a firearm at her Pocket area ranch. / Photo by Lance Armstrong

“(It was) everything from chasing ground squirrels with a 20-gauge on the ranch (to) chasing people off the levee for poaching her walnuts or oranges,” he said. “The onslaught of development around her ranch was always a challenge to her, I believe.”
And with a gun in hand, Betty was also not afraid to usher people’s uninvited dogs off of her ranch, where on several occasions, unleashed dogs attacked some of her animals.
Continuing on the topic of animals, it was certainly known by many people that some of Betty’s greatest loves of life were her animal friends who she would talk to in the same manner that a loving parent speaks to their children.
After traveling to the ranch each day in her full-size, yellow truck, Betty would spend hours beautifying the ranch and caring for and communicating with her animals, which ranged from horses and goats to chickens and geese. And at one time, she even owned llamas.
Also common on the ranch were German shepherds, noted Liz Hueg, one of Betty’s granddaughters, who fondly recalled spending time on the ranch with her grandmother during her childhood.
Two of Betty’s favorite animals in the latter part of her life were a pair of white geese that she set free each day to roam the ranch. And when it was time for them to return to their pen, she simply clapped her hands and called out to them.
“Come on boys,” she would holler, as the geese waddled back to their pen with little coaxing by their owner.
On other occasions, Betty explained to people how chickens get a bad rap.
“Chickens aren’t stupid,” she would say. “It’s amazing how much they’re like humans.”
And with a chuckle, she would add, “They’re actually a lot smarter than some people out there.”
Judy Balshor, daughter of Al and Marie Balshor, who founded Balshor Florist in 1950, recalled how Betty would often deliver eggs to her family’s business.
“Betty was a friend of mine and she used to come to our flower shop like every other week, and she would bring us crates of eggs,” she said. “She was a lovely lady and would always give us hugs and kisses. And we miss here dearly, with her smile. She was so kind to us.”
Despite her small stature and weight that was eventually a smaller number than her age, Betty, who had 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, was known for her toughness and ability to lift 50-pound bags of grain into her early 90s. She also baled her own hay and rode horses and a tractor for many years.
Linda Farmer, who knew Betty through the Elks Lodge, recalled that toughness.
“It was unbelievable how tough (Betty) was,” she said. “At her (advanced age), she drove around her yellow truck and she did all this work around the ranch and took care of the chickens, geese, goats and ducks. I was just amazed by her.”
Colin Dias, another one of Betty’s grandsons, also spoke about his grandmother’s physical, as well as mental toughness.
“She was a hardworking woman, and sometimes hard to get along with,” he said. “I learned a lot from her as far as having backbone, speaking your mind and holding high expectations of yourself and others, and having principals.”
Colin also described Betty as one who believed in “not taking advantage of the system,” and working for what you receive in life.
“(She believed) in never taking the easy way out or the shortcut,” he said.
Matt concluded that there will never be another woman quite like his grandmother.
“I would say that my grandmother was a very interesting woman, and I do believe that the mold was broken after she was born,” he said.

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