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By Miriam Raftery

June 13, 2022 (Lakeside) – Betty Jean McMillen, 82, passed away in her sleep at her Lakeside home on May 29, 2022. McMillen served five terms as President of the Lakeside Historical Society and has long been a key voice for the organization, still co-chairing publicity and social media for the LHS at the time of her death, along with Billy Ortiz.

"In many ways, Betty was the heart of LHS and she will be missed every day," co-president Gary E. Mitrovich  wrote in the LHS newsletter. "Betty's impact on Lakeside is immeeasurable and exemplary. She was well-known and well-liked by the Lakeside community. She leaves us a tremendous legacy that will not be forgotten," he added.

“I’m left with a great big hole in my heart,” Ortiz posted on Facebook.  He recalled McMillen’s efforts to preserve Lakeside’s heritage and to plant trees across the community. “She planted more than trees,” he said. “She planted history and a desire to love our Lakeside community. From morning ‘til night, she was dedicated to the town she fell in love with many years ago—always raising money for beautifying Lakeside Maine Avenue with murals and signs that tell a story about Lakeside history. Lakeside would not look like it does if she had not inspired so many of us with the importance of heritage, community pride, and especially our history.”

He added, “I hope that as you drive down Maine Ave. you will think of her and how much she loved Lakeside and its people. She was a beautiful soul that spent her last day smiling at all who would glance her way,” Ortiz said, noting that he was the last student to tour the Lakeside Historical Society’s museum with her shortly before her unexpected death.

“She had so much knowledge of our history and was willing to share it wholeheartedly,” he recalled. “I think if there was something she would want all of us to remember is to embrace our history and preservation of all our old buildings. It pained her deeply to see our cottages and older buildings being knocked down to make `big ugly concrete buildings,’ she would say. She will be deeply missed by many…She was my hero.”

“Lakeside is a hot place in the summer,” McMillen said in a video interview in 2021 aired on East County Magazine during a drive to save jacaranda trees from destruction. “The more trees we have, the cooler it will be.”

Photo, right, by Billy Ortiz: McMillen admires a towering Jacaranda tree

Assemblyman Randy Voepel adjourned the State Assembly in honor of McMillen’s memory on June 2.  View video.

McMillen was born October 24, 1939 in North Carolina. Her father was in the military  and the family, including Betty and her brother, moved to Hawaii -- where they were living when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941.

She arrived in San Diego in her early teens in the 1950s and attended Hoover High School. She later worked at the old Pacific Bell Telephone Company known as Ma Bell.

Rod McMillen, her husband, also worked at the telephone company and was a student at Hoover High. They married in 1959. The couple had three children, two boys and a girl.  In 1972, they moved to Lakeside and bought a house on a half-acre lot on Lakeside Road.

Betty McMillen became involved with the Lakeside Historical Society in the mid-80s, becoming a member in 1989. She went on to be elected President for five terms. She also served on the executive board and chaired the preservation committee, assisted in the history center’s archives, wrote newsletter and newspaper articles, and served on many local committees in Lakeside and across East County.

She was an original member of the Lakeside River Park Conservancy board and was voted Board member of the  year in 2006. She led the charge to save the old Bostonia ouse. She also served on Lakeside's Design Review Board for many years, as well as the Lakeside REvitalization Committee, the Lindo Lake Subcommittee, the Woman's Club of Lakeside, and the Garden Club. In 1992, she co-founded the Main Avenue Revitalization Association which she chaired until 2021.

McMillen received awards from the Lakeside Chamber of Commerce including the Harry Spence Memorial Award, the group's highest honor. She also received an award from the Save Our Heritage Organization for her dedicated efforts on behalf of the community.  She drew accolades from many public officials including retired Supervisor Dianne Jacob, former Congressman Duncan Hunter, Assemblyman (now state Senator) Brian Jones and state Senator (now Supervisor) Joel Anderson.

“This woman was a worker bee,” Assemblyman Voepel said on the Assembly floor. “She was a truly wonderful and selfless woman who truly cared about our community and everyone in it."


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