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April 29, 2009 > History: The Joseph Bettencourt Family

History: The Joseph Bettencourt Family

Sponsored by his uncle, Frank Leal, Joseph Bettencourt came to Irvington from Fayal, Azores Islands, in 1908. He left his wife Maria in Horta, Fayal, with their children Maria, Beatrice and Joseph Jr. Frank Leal was an established businessman and property owner in Irvington, later becoming known for building the Leal Theatre, the first in Irvington.

Joe Bettencourt rented a portion of one of Leal's buildings and opened a barber shop which became a favorite gathering place for the men of the town. By 1913 it was time to welcome the family to Irvington. "Uncle Frank" made the journey to Horta, returning with Maria and the children on the SS Madonna to Providence, Rhode Island. They traveled west by train and were met at the station by the children's godfather, Antone Dutra.

Life in Irvington proved to be a very happy one for the family. Maria was an excellent seamstress, and her services were much in demand. Everyone worked hard, but all have pleasant memories of large family gatherings with good company, good food and music.

Two girls were added to the family. Evelyn, a great softball player, married Joseph George and had two children. Anna married Elmer Miller of Niles and had four children. The Bettencourt's only son, Joseph Jr., served in the army and later worked for the school district.

Marie, the oldest daughter, married Joseph Duarte, also from Fayal. They lived in Centerville. He worked for Morton Salt and she for Booth Cannery. Marie was active in the American Legion Auxiliary, several Portuguese lodges and in the Holy Ghost Church where she cared for the alter linens. Their only Child, Roy, was born in 1924.

A baseball star at Washington High, Roy decided to forego big league tryouts, and upon graduating in 1942 enlisted in the Air Force. He was an engineer on a B26 Martin Marauder and flew 60 missions over Europe.

After the war he attended San Jose State and UCSF College of Pharmacy. He and his wife Elaine lived in San Francisco where he worked after graduation. They moved to Fremont in 1957, and two years later he joined classmate Walt Haller working at Haller's Pharmacy. In 1962 Haller's opened the first local drive-in pharmacy across from Washington Hospital under Roy's management. Probably ahead of its time, the project didn't work out.

Roy became part owner of Haller's and managed the Newark store where he was esteemed by the Portuguese speaking residents because he spoke their language. He was also known for delivering medications to those unable to go to the store.

He retired in 1986, but continued part-time with Haller's for 10 years and later at the Montclair Pharmacy for a total of 55 years in the profession. He passed away in 2007. His and Elaine's children are Barbara, Paul, and Monica.

Beatrice Bettencourt was born in 1905 and attended Washington School on Lincoln St across from their home on Washington Blvd. She married George Enos, a dairyman from Pescadero whose father and grandfather had helped build the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. At 18, George moved with his parents to Irvington where they established the Enos Dairy. They entered into a partnership with Ben Mozzetti and the property, located where Irvington High now stands, later became the Mozzetti Dairy.

The George Enos Band, comprised of George, his brother Bill and a few friends, became popular for parties and dances, making for fun-filled week-ends revolving around friends and family. Beatrice was a supervisor at Booth Cannery where she was responsible for first aid services. She was active in a number of Portuguese lodges and served as secretary of SPRSI #105 for 60 years.

Beatrice and George's children are Dorothy and Mabel. Dorothy will be remembered by those who attended Washington High in the 40s and 50s as the principal's secretary. She married Verne Ferreira whose father was a well known contractor in Washington Township. Verne worked with the State Board of Equalization for over 50 years.

Mabel has fond memories of growing up in Irvington. She was a Campfire Girl and enjoyed the Maple Skating Rink and selling tickets at the Leal Theatre. A music major at San Jose State, she played the pump organ at the old St. Joseph's Church and later gave private piano lessons. She married Lester Gomes, a purchasing agent for Alameda County. Their children are Glenn, Jan and Donn.

The little white house that held so many happy memories for the Bettencourt family gave way to progress some years ago with the development of Roberts Avenue.

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