Posted by CODEPINK Staff
In honor of Betty Merle, the coordinator of CODEPINK Sacramento, who passed away Dec. 29:
Betty “little ol’ Okie girl” Merle (b. March 13, 1938) launched CODEPINK in her adopted state’s capitol, Sacremento, with friend Jo Souvignier. At a celebration of Betty’s life on January 10, 2009, filled with tears, laughter and many good memories, Jo remembered that at their first meeting, Betty brought a binder full of information about CODEPINK – and Jo felt a bit intimidated!
Originally from Ringling, Oklahoma, but a Californian since 1946, Betty had a much-loved family, then earned two degrees from San Jose State University in the 1980s. She went on to a diverse professional career as a therapist, executive director, and college professor. Betty had a passion for helping and teaching, and did so with great dedication and enthusiasm.
Betty was an active member of organizations in the Sacramento area such as Grey Panthers, CODEPINK, Women Democrats, Town and Country Democrats, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and ACLU.
Her husband Dennis described a dramatic CODEPINK action in the state capitol building. “In a voice that was both hushed and excited,” he recalled with a big smile, “she called me from the office of the Speaker of the Assembly [in 2005] and said, ‘I think I’m going to be arrested.’” This took place during the struggle to bring home the California National Guard from Iraq when then-Speaker Nunez refused to meet with members of CODEPINK to discuss supporting a resolution on the issue. I was there too -- one of 8 women, including Medea Benjamin, Brenda Hillman and others from the Sacramento area who sat down on the floor and insisted on being responded to. Finally, we were not arrested, but the action got plenty of media and other attention, and citizen Betty was more than ready to do civil disobedience for the first time in her life!
Betty Merle was an active leader of Sacramento CODEPINK and a wonderful mentor. “She was CODEPINK to me,” said military mom Zohreh, with tears in her eyes, to me after the memorial service.
Current local group coordinator Heather Woodford recalled how Betty brought her along as a young leader, and Mary Ellen, another friend and codepinker, added: “She would never ask you to do something she wouldn’t do herself.”
Although I only did a few actions with her in Sacramento, I vividly remember Betty’s Oklahoma twang, her twinkling dark eyes, her vigor, and the way she said sharply to Nunez’ aide, “As California goes, so goes the nation; so let’s bring our national guard home!” Betty came friendly but feisty, prepared and sharp-witted, to CODEPINK actions and meetings. Heather remembered her characteristic response when someone was complaining: “Well, pull on your big girl pants and deal with it!” We’ll try, Betty.
Betty is survived by her husband Dennis Ledden; children Randy, Belinda, and Melanie; grandchildren Molly, Chelsea, Meaghan, Lindsey, Andrew, Dana, Nick, and Eli; sister Jessie Shoemaker; ten great-grandchildren and many beloved nieces, nephews, and dear friends.