Betty Smith was born October 27, 1930, in Chandler, OK to John Henry and Willie Frances May Fegan. She was the youngest of 10 children from a strong,
hard-working, enterprising family. They learned their business acumen from their ”Poppa” who instilled in them that hard work, a determination to succeed and self confidence would enable them to reach whatever goal they set.
Ms. Smith started working and developing her business sense at a very early age. She worked as a cashier at her sister Myrtle and her husband’s drug stores on “Black Wallstreet” in Tulsa, OK. And at 17, she decided, after a woman came to her mother’s house bragging about the new bathroom she just had built in her home, that she would take her college fund money and build her mother a bathroom too! And she did just that, taking charge of the whole project as the general contractor, ordering
supplies and supervising the workers. This sparked her passion for home remodeling and real estate.
In 1949, she married Booker T. Smith from Chandler, OK and they moved to Portland in the early 1950s where it took little time for her to establish herself in the
community lending her business sense to organizations like the Albina Art Center. She was also an active member of St. Phillip the Deacon Episcopal church for over 60 years, singing in the choir for over 20 years.
They purchased their first home on NE 7th. Street and there the Smith family began to plant their roots in the Eliot/Irvington neighborhood, one of Portland’s only black communities where she remained until her death. She loved this neighborhood and vowed to never leave it.
Ms. Smith started her journey in nursing at the Portland Air Base working there 27 years. While working full time and raising her family, her passion for business and her entrepreneurial spirit ignited when in the late 60’s she co-owned and operated the first black owned retail store in Portland called Mr. B and the Cinnamon Tree located on 17th and Killingsworth. She also began taking advantage of the low- cost property era of the 60’s and 70’s and saw her passion for remodeling projects turn into a
successful rental property portfolio.
In the early 80’s after operating a care home for disabled seniors for several years, she decide to change her focus to childcare and opened Jeannette Fegan School of Early Learning, following in the footsteps of her sister Ruby Marie who owned Marie Fegan Schools in South Los Angeles and her sister Myrtle who owned Lee Fegan Preschools in Tulsa, OK. She successfully operated her school for over 15 years, loving, nurturing and educating 100s of children from the NE community and beyond.
Anyone who knew her well, knew she was the “Queen of Garage Sales”. People would often say “Ms. Smith I need a …..” and the hunt would be on and sure enough, she would find exactly what you needed! Every Friday and Saturday she would hop in her little red Datsun pickup truck and drive around town looking for the best treasures and every year she would have her own big garage sale to make room for more. She loved and continued doing this well into her 80’s until she could no longer drive. She also loved landscaping and gardening in her backyard and was a die-hard Blazer fan. Ms. Smith also loved travelling particularly with her sister Ruby Marie. They visited Africa multiple times, the Mediterranean, Europe, Asia, South America and cities throughout the U.S.
Ms. Smith loved her extended family and missed only one family reunion since they started having them in the early 70’s.
Ms. Smith is preceded in death by her parents John and Willie Fegan, and all 9siblings brothers Roy, Len, Francis, John and sisters Gladys, Myrtle, Bernice,Dorothy and Ruby Marie.
She will be loved and missed by her four children Rodney, Randy, Janet and Debi, Grandchildren Donnie Drake, Ladarius Polk, Jason Smith, Candace Hill (Darian), Daniel Smith and LaNaya Smith, Great-Grandchildren DeVondre, Ondrea, Eboni, Amari, Darius, Amaya, and Malia. She also leaves a host of cousins, nieces, nephews and friends who loved her dearly.
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