Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “Finding Napa or Napa Finding Me” November 2006.
Finding Napa or Napa Finding Me – Betty Hagedorn
By JoAnn Busenbark
In the early 1900s, behind the UC Berkeley sports stadium near Strawberry Creek, there was a dairy farm with a large house where a family lived and grew. If you visited Berkeley today, it is the site of the U.C. Berkeley Botanical Gardens. The youngest child is known to many of us in Napa as Betty Hagedorn, former tree farm owner. Betty’s grandfather was the first appointed mayor of Berkeley. It was through her grandfather, Mr. Scotchler, that Betty and her family was allowed to live on the dairy farm and enjoy the country life. Of course this was in the 1900s, a very different era.
One of Betty’s older brothers was a talented pianist and, as a young girl, Betty sat with him on the piano bench and sang. Discovering Betty had a beautiful voice, her mother arranged singing lessons with a well-known voice coach, a former UC Berkeley football player (an interesting combination). As Betty progressed with the development of her voice, her mother employed a manager to arrange singing engagements. Betty’s most memorable singing experience was on radio station KFRC/KYA in San Francisco. She and her mother would take the ferry from Berkeley to San Francisco each week.
In 1938, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited San Francisco to celebrate the opening of the March of Dimes. Betty was requested during the radio program to sing his favorite song, “Home on the Range.” She remembers practicing long hours to get just the right inflection.
As a high soprano, Betty also sang with the San Francisco Opera Company as well as other chorale groups in the Berkeley area. One of her proudest moments related to her singing was at the age of 85 singing at two of her grandchildren’s weddings.
Getting to Napa from Berkeley is not a great jaunt, but Betty chose a longer route to get here. While living in San Francisco as a young woman, she worked in a pre-school where she had been trained through a Work Progress Administration (WPA) program. Her neighbor and friend decided there was an eligible man that Betty needed to meet. Bill Hagedorn was vacationing in San Francisco from Detroit and was introduced to Betty Scotchler.
They were married two months later and Betty moved to Detroit where Bill was vice president of the United Bronze Foundry. The family plan was to relocate to California, but as often happens, time moves on and the return did not occur for sixteen years. Betty used the time in Detroit to complete her education at Wayne State University while also raising son Tim and teaching at the local community college. She continued singing with choirs and at events.
After selling the factory and planning the return to California, Betty’s life-long friends the Bruderers encouraged the couple to purchase a part of their property on Solano Avenue in Napa. The property was purchased, the move completed and they joined forces with their neighbors to start one of the first Christmas tree farms in the City of Napa.
For many of us, this is where the story begins of being acquainted or friends with the Hagedorn Tree Farm and Betty Hagedorn.
In 1970 Betty was hired by Napa Valley College as an instructor to teach classes in early childhood education and training instructional assistants. Betty still sees former students and over the years has sold a number of Christmas trees to them and their families.
Known for her patience, giving spirit and compassion beyond belief, Betty sees the world through “can do” eyes and has passed that aura on to many of those she has touched over the years. At 87 years young, she still volunteers at the Queen of the Valley Hospital, often in the family waiting room or wherever assigned. Betty’s presence adds warmth and joy to our community, a “Napian” to model.