This 97-year-old Fort Worth woman finds happiness in family and a life well lived
By Linda Blackwell Simmons
Above Photo by Jill Johnson
When you show up at Betty Bob Buckley’s Fort Worth home for a photo session, you can be sure that the 97-year-old will have had her hair done the day before.
“It looks a little too finished right after I leave the salon,” she says.
She is dressed for the occasion, too, wearing a vibrant print scarf and firecracker red sweater. After adding a bit more lipstick, a complementary shade of crimson, Betty Bob is camera-ready.
It’s a role she has been comfortable with all of her life.
Betty Bob Diltz was born Nov. 1, 1925, in Oklahoma, but Buckley’s family moved shortly after her birth to West Texas. There, she grew up a child of the Great Depression, experiencing the same hardships as many other Americans. Soon, she lost her grandmother, grandfather and father; her brother was killed in World War II. It was also in the small West Texas town of Big Spring that her love of writing began and where her first byline was featured on the front page of the Herald, the local newspaper.
Betty Bob’s story focused on local reaction to the D-Day invasion. She interviewed local residents who stood around a car radio in downtown, somberly listening to updates of that historic time. She was 18.
Betty Bob also discovered the stage, never missing an opportunity to perform. She and her girlfriends attended dances at the local air base, which is where she met the love of her life, Ernest Buckley. The couple married and, along with their firstborn, Betty Lynn, moved to Fort Worth in 1949. Shortly after, twins Michael and Patrick came along. Ernest’s military career then took him to Morocco, where the family spent the next two years. In addition to nurturing her children in a foreign country, Betty Bob wrote a column for a Moroccan publication based in Casablanca.
Upon returning to Fort Worth, she wrote and edited for The Fort Worth Press and was public relations director for Casa Mañana theater. During this time, she was also hired by WBAP radio and television.
She and Ernest soon added another son to the family. All their children grew up to be accomplished professionals. Betty Lynn is an award-winning actress and singer well known internationally for her film role in Carrie and her Broadway turn in CATS. The twin boys both earned master’s degrees in engineering. And Norman, who lives part time in Fort Worth with his mom, became a Hollywood television director of such series as Pretty Little Liars, Sweet Magnolias and, most recently, NCIS: Hawaiʻi.
While Betty Bob was a devoted mother, journalism was her professional passion. Along with Bobbie Wygant, a pioneer in local broadcast journalism, the two founded the Celebrity Breakfast, an annual Fort Worth event that featured such notables as Lady Bird Johnson, Barbara Walters and Stanley Marcus, CEO of Neiman Marcus, the luxury department store. Bobbie served as the emcee and interviewer.
“Betty Bob and I became even closer after Phil [Bobbie’s husband] passed away in 1986,” says Bobbie. “I was devastated, but Betty Bob’s frequent phone calls were very consoling. Then, in 1989, she lost Ernest. She began joining me more frequently for events I covered at night for the TV station.”
Betty Bob recalls those days and evenings working and traveling with Bobbie.
“Bobbie is like a younger sister to me. We complement each other. She brings new adventures into my world, and I believe she enjoys mine as well. We worked together on many projects, even briefly sharing an office at KXAS.”
They earned their nickname — “the party girls” — for their antics.
Norman remembers those times. “They hit every opening in town for a number of years. I am grateful that Bobbie has made Mom’s life richer. We all consider Bobbie a part of the family, and she has been a great encouragement in my own career.”
Today, Betty Bob continues to live independently with some part-time help. Betty Bob’s little Taz, her rescue Yorkie, keeps her company, especially if Norman is out of town. Taz doesn’t miss a chance to jump into Betty Bob’s lap when she’s in her reading chair in the living room.
She and Bobbie still get together when they can, and Betty Bob makes the rounds of her favorite local restaurants for birthdays, special occasions or just a meal out.
“I have a number of very special friends, some still living, some living only in my memory,” says Bobbie. “Betty Bob is in an extra special category. There is no subject, no area I cannot discuss with her, be it political, professional, personal, physical, religious. We may not agree, but I’m comfortable no matter the subject. She fits every description of ‘best friend.’ ”