ELIZABETH (BETSY) ROSE HERBERT
was born in Philadelphia July 8, 1938,
daughter of Morris Rasumny, a sign painter and Margaret Boyden ("MB"),
a gardener and writer. As a child she studied piano, violin, voice, dance
and dramatic arts. As a teenager she was part of Singing City Choir
under the tutelage of Elaine Brown, sometimes performing with
the Philadelphia Orchestra. Along with her younger sister, Ida Louise,
she attended Cheltenham High School where she was awarded a full scholarship
to Temple University in choral conducting. Instead Betsy chose to leave
for Vermont where she attended Goddard College, noted for its experimental
approach to education.
At Goddard, Betsy's ventures into student teaching sparked
a lifetime of involvement in early childhood education, from teaching in
on an Indian reservation and in California. At Goddard, Betsy met Ramon
an antique dealer and jazz pianist, and they divided their time
between the jazz clubs of New York and the quiet hills of Vermont.
In NYC she studied and performed in modern dance groups, including classes
with Anna Sokolow, Donald McKayle, Mary Anthony and the Henry Street Playhouse.
In 1962, Betsy became a founding member of the avant-garde Judson Group,
expressing her interest in individual creativity rather than in repertory
In Calais, Vermont she met Elizabeth Gay, a wise older woman who was instrumental
in bringing Betsy to California where she taught and studied dance improvisation
in both San Francisco and Marin County with Anna Halprin`s Dancer`s Workshop.
Betsy was living on Stanyan Street near Haight/Ashbury in 1966
when she met Nick Herbert, who was studying Physics at Stanford.
After a whirlwind courtship spanning San Francisco and Taos, New Mexico
(where Betsy had traveled for adventure and solitude) Nick and Betsy moved
to the house in Boulder Creek, California where they lived together
for more than 30 years, married, raised their son, Khola, and where she
(of breast cancer) surrounded by friends on August 18, 2002.
Once she had put down roots in the San Lorenzo Valley, Betsy set about
transforming her environment. Along with Raven Lang, Kate Bowland
and Karen Ehrlich, she was a nurturing spirit behind the home birth movement
where she introduced the Navaho "Blessingway" ritual to mothers
She was a founding member and sometime cook for the Institute of Feminine
which was the first state certified school for the training of midwives
in the U.S. and which embodied all the arts, as well as the art of midwifery.
With Stella Fein, Roberta McPherson and their children, Betsy formed
a homeschooling group (Upper Valley School) which eventually expanded
to form South Street Centre through which many hundreds of parents and kids
were able to realize a vision of community-based, child-centered learning.
Betsy was an active member of the California Home School Association,
the American Association of Educators in Private Practice and
the State Commission on Community Service. She participated in
the Santa Cruz Cultural Committee and the Ethnic Arts Network
and helped produce the children's programs at the Boulder Creek Library.
With Sue Coulter she organized the first Boulder Creek Fool's Parade
which for five funny years has continued to entertain and inspire us.
In 1994, Betsy was awarded the Hammer-Marcum Award which reads (in part):
"Through her work with the Symposium for Educational Diversity,
the South Street Centre, the Mountain Community Theatre, Camp Joy Gardens,
and Camp Climax Pottery, she has promoted diversity and choice in public
and private education and [Betsy] serves as a worthy model
for all public-spirited people of the state."
Betsy was a charter member of the Valley Woman's Club and participated in
their many activities including planning and running Redwood Mountain
Faire--an annual music/craft festival which drew thousands of participants
to Highlands Park for several summers. At California State's newest campus
in Monterey, Betsy worked as a consultant to their Service Learning Program.
She loved to read and numerous books at the Boulder Creek Library
have been purchased on Betsy's recommendation.
Inspired by a performance at UCSC by choreographer Liz Lerman,
Betsy founded a dance improv group that met for many years. Betsy also taught
dance workshops and was a founding member of Bruce Lee's Company of
Strangers--dancing (April 2000) in their last full-length performance
"The White Room" at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz.
Betsy's central passion was the search for new ways of living.
She loved to read anthropology books, travel journals, fiction and poetry
about complicated human relationships and she loved to move.
Betsy's favorite motto: "Don't just say it, do it!"
Her friend Alex Utterman writes from India:
"I just got the news about the death of a most amazing human being,
a woman named Betsy Herbert, or I should say, a Woman named Betsy Herbert,
because she was indeed a woman with a capital W: all whole-hearted good
for others, a tireless worker in the small town that I live in
called Boulder Creek, CA, a teacher of children, a dancer by profession,
a clear-eyed, throaty-voiced, sparkling-smiled, wholly-laughing being
who taught everyone who came into contact with her about living,
through the best pedagogy possible: by simply being the genuine article,
by embodying life itself."
Betsy's last words were: "Oh, no, I'm scared." followed by "Wonderful!"