Vida Marie (Bettencourt) Legge February 4th, 1917 - April 14th, 2022
Vida’s story started before she was born.
April 18, 1906... The Great San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. 40,000 homeless survivors lived in a tent city in Golden Gate Park, including an Irish girl named Eva Mooney. In her first time out on her own without the supervision of her father and four brothers, and "looking for adventure" (as Vida put it), Eva met a handsome Portuguese trombone player named Joe Bettencourt. They married and lived in Sausalito, where Joe's family had dairy ranches.
In 1915 Joe and Eva climbed Mt. Tamalpais, and two weeks later Eva gave birth to twins Russell and Ruth. On February 4th, 1917, the Bettencourts had another daughter, Vida Marie. Her early life was filled with music, as her "Papa" led a popular swing orchestra that spawned the likes of band leader Paul Whiteman. Vida has said, "I was very proud, because he was like a celebrity and that was impressive."
As kids, Vida and her twin siblings would hike a mile to Pine Station, catch a train into town, take the ferry to San Francisco and visit their Portuguese relatives in the Sunset, and their Irish relatives in the Mission. Whenever Papa loaded up the truck to head into town, Vida would "run to join him and jump in the truck and ride to the library in Sausalito." This led to a life-long, voracious appetite for reading.
Vida attended Catholic grammar school, and graduated from Mt. Tamalpais High School in 1934. She worked in her cousin's San Francisco salon as a manicurist. At a dance in Fairfax in 1936 featuring her Papa's orchestra, she met Herbert Legge, English son of a ship's engineer. Vida was 19; Herb was 26. As newlyweds they lived in his mother's five-story home at 33 Miller Avenue in Sausalito. Built in 1888 by Major O.C. Miller, it is one of the oldest houses in town and an event center today known as "The Pines".
Their wedding hit a bit of a snag, however, as Herb was Episcopalian, but Vida was a devout Catholic. Vida said that Herb "was seven years older and I didn't know how to stand up for myself." So they were married in Episcopal Grace Cathedral on May 30, 1936. In later years they had a second ceremony in a Catholic church. As for finally standing up to her husband, Vida says, "I learned to...the hard way."
Herb and Vida had six children: Janae "Jan" Anne, Ronica "Rocky" Jean, Michael Stephen, Herbert Edwin, Trudy Mary, and Claire Marie. Vida had 11 grandchildren, 14 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren.
The Legges lived on dairy ranches in Coyote Valley in Marin, Roberts Road in Penngrove and then on what is now Tara Firma Farm out I Street in Petaluma. From there they moved to 827 B Street, according to Vida, "the only house in Petaluma where a sitting president slept. He was the fat one...Taft."
Eventually the Legges moved to 6th and I Streets, across from what was then Petaluma General Hospital and on to Fairview Terrace. Finally, empty-nesters Herb and Vida moved into a mobile home in Sonoma in the late 1970s and traveled the world, visiting The Azores, Ireland, England, Norway, Germany, France, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Legges enjoyed cruises as well and on one befriended fellow passengers actor Pat O'Brien and his wife, Eloise.
When Herb died, Vida continued to travel, visiting Italy, Mexico and repeatedly going to what was then known as Yugoslavia. She was making her Catholic pilgrimage to Medugorje to see Apparition Hill where it was reported that the Virgin Mary appeared in 1981.
Herb and Vida were very active in fighting for the rights of the developmentally disabled and when the Petaluma School District was short on teachers' aides, Vida took courses at S.S.U. and S.R.J.C., and began a career as a teacher's and special education aide.
Her century-long passion was for reading. She started as a child, loving "stories of families and children.” In her elder years when she developed limited vision Vida "read" audio books. She particularly loved biographies, such as that of Michelle Obama. Not a big fan of poetry, Vida was nonetheless a huge fan of Maya Angelou. She loved her biography and went once to meet her.
Vida Marie Bettencourt-Legge survived two world wars and two global pandemics. She met her singing idol, Tony Bennett and married the love of her life...a lot of life, indeed, spanning 105 years.
We will miss her terribly! Her family has great gratitude for Juan Ventura who was an amazing caregiver and to Chris Linnell for creating this written tribute for Vida.
Friends are invited to a Memorial Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, 35 Liberty Street, Petaluma on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at 1:00 pm.
Readers who are inclined to make a donation in Vida’s memory might consider Becoming Independent or Hospice of Petaluma.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Vida Marie (Bettencourt) Legge, please visit our floral store.
Hospice of Petaluma
416 Payran Street, Petaluma CA 94954
730 W Napa St #6550, Sonoma CA 95476