Aunt Betty’s Legacy

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January 28 2014

Betty Jane Ticho in DC In early 2014, the Bentley siblings contacted AIDS Research Alliance to make a donation in honor of their aunt, Betty Jane Ticho.

In her later years, Betty Jane had come to know two of ARA’s longtime supporters – John Tobias and John Sovella, who were her neighbors in Pacific Palisades, California. The generosity and kindness they showed Betty at the end of her life inspired her nieces and nephew to make a donation to their cause of choice, ARA, in Betty’s honor when she passed away.

Here, we speak with Beth Bentley about her Aunt Betty, about John Tobias and John Sovella, and about the Bentley’s generous gift.

Tell us about your aunt. How did she inspire you to make this gift?

My aunt, Betty Jane Ticho, or Aunt Betty, had such a strong influence on my life.

In the late 1950s, she founded the L.A. County Epilepsy Society (now known as the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Los Angeles). LACES became her life’s work. At the time, there was a lot of stigma associated with epilepsy. People thought that it was the work of the Devil. Aunt Betty did a lot of educational work about epilepsy, as well as working directly with those who had epilepsy.

Aunt Betty was a real free spirit. She did sketches for fashion magazines to help support herself when she was working on her Masters Degree in Social Work. She was also beautiful; she used to be a model.

How did she meet John Tobias and John “Jesse” Sovella?

John got to know Aunt Betty after her retirement, when he delivered Meals on Wheels to her home in the Pacific Palisades. They became really good friends. He and his partner, Jesse, would invite her over for Thanksgiving. John would assist her with errands, like grocery shopping. When she fell and broke her hip, John and Jesse stepped in to offer support that professional caregivers could not provide. They drove her to doctor’s appointments, and helped her with her medications.

They did so very much for my aunt.

Jesse, Aunt Betty, John
Jesse, Aunt Betty, and John.

When did you meet John and Jesse?

I didn’t personally meet them until her memorial service, which John and Jesse hosted at their home. When I first met them, it was as if we had known each other all of our lives. I could see why my aunt and they had become so close.

After the service, I was in California for a bit [before returning home to New Jersey]. John and Jesse came over to keep me company in my aunt’s house. I was going through her things, and came across her hats. We had the best time with those hats. Jesse tried on a Christian Dior hat, which I insisted that he keep. For me, it was so nice to have the company of John and Jesse, and to remember the things about Aunt Betty. They were missing their dear friend, too.

My aunt was a career woman; she did not have children.  I don’t have any first cousins. But when I met John and Jesse, they became the first cousins that I didn’t have in my life.

What inspired you to donate to AIDS Research Alliance?

John and Jesse did all of this for Aunt Betty out of the goodness of their hearts. You could not place a financial value on it. We were so appreciative. We decided to make a donation in their honor – as an expression of our appreciation for what they did for Aunt Betty, and for our family.  When we asked what charity to support, they were unequivocal in their choice of AIDS Research Alliance.

This was an issue close to my aunt’s heart. She was in favor of gay rights before the term became popular. She had many friends who were gay. And, I began my adult life in New York in the early 1980s. AIDS touched a lot of people I knew. I had friends who died from AIDS, and others who are still living with the virus. Seeking a cure for the disease is important to me, too.

Our entire family was very pleased that a cause near and dear to them, and near to Aunt Betty’s heart, was the cause that John and Jesse chose to support.

Has someone, living or deceased, touched your life? Would a contribution to AIDS Research Alliance memorialize and honor that person? Please contact our development department –

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