Betsy M. Harkins

1917 - 2012

Betsy M. Harkins, 94, passed away at her home on Aug. 18, 2012. Betsy was born Nov. 22, 1917, in San Diego, Calif., to Wallace and Ruby McCulloch Heffron. Although she grew up a city girl, farming was in her blood and after she moved back to Walla Walla and married Lloyd Harkins in 1939, they always had a little garden and eventually a small farm. Betsy loved the idea of raising everything the family ate. She continued to garden and had a small flock of chickens until her death. Her yard was full of color and bird song.

She was an environmentalist long before that was a popular term and had a deep regard for the natural world. She was also an amateur astronomer and many evenings were spent outside looking at the stars and learning the names of the constellations with her husband, daughter and longtime family friend, Val.
Betsy had an adventurous spirit and learned to fly a plane in her 50s and drove sports cars for years. She was an excellent water skier and many happy days were spent at the river boating and skiing. She had a beautiful kite collection and loved nothing better than putting all the kites up as high as she could and watching them fly in the breeze … and chasing them across the fields when they started to fall!
But most of all, she was a friend. She was an excellent listener and went to the grave carrying the secrets of others with her. She mentored countless young people through the years; starting with her daughter and her daughter’s friends and moving through the neighbor kids and eventually her own grandchildren. She was a foster mother at a crucial point in a young girl’s life. She enjoyed helping others, whether financially, spiritually or emotionally. She was full of wisdom and encouragement. She lived life fully and well. She will be missed.

Betsy is survived by her daughter and partner, Becky Gwinn and Michael Poncy of Walla Walla; grandchildren, Casey Gwinn of Seattle and Jessie Maylender of Walla Walla,; nieces, Cherie Hinchliff of Dayton, Nancy Hartwell of Walla Walla and Kathy Rose of Griffen, Ga.; and longtime family friend, Louis “Val” Valiante of Walla Walla. She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Lloyd.

A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, Aug. 25, at 6 p.m. at her home, 2890 Blackbird Bend, Walla Walla. Private family interment will be held at Mountain View Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Blue Mountain Humane Society or charity of the donor’s choice through the Herring Groseclose Funeral Home, 315 W. Alder, Walla Walla, WA 99362. Family and friends are invited to sign the online guestbook at

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