Ode to Bette

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It was 4 in the morning, the spring of 1982, quiet on 4th Street in Berkeley. The marble factory and Fourth Street Grill were closed.  I entered the back door of Bette's Diner for my shift, got cleaned up, and started prepping. Carrot soup, raisin scones. Pancake mix. Chopped veggies.

I had just finished up the Hotel and Restaurant program at San Francisco City College with Sue, who then opened Bette's Oceanview Diner with Bette and her husband Manfred. Bette's photo - bouffant from the 60's - hung in a place of honor behind the counter.

Things went well from the start because it was indeed 'good food and friendly service' as the menu promised. Creative, smart, good cooks and entrepreneurs - Bette, Manfred and Sue were a great team, and Bette's thrived.

I was thinking about the old days recently at Bette's memorial. She left us way too young - still fully in this life. Manfred and their beloved daughter adored her, as did the rest of us.

What really struck me as hundreds of people piled into the Hillside Club in Berkeley was how Bette created community. How much richer our lives are because of her.
Bette cared about people -- her family, friends, and a much wider circle. Bette's offered customers quality food, made sure the employees had decent pay and benefits, and treated everyone with respect.


The last time I saw her, hand on hip at the diner, we discussed some burning political question. When Berkeley raised the minimum wage, she was a big supporter. No hesitation.

Alongside her dear friends, dozens of people who had worked at Bette's showed up to honor her - the dishwashers, cleaners, cooks, servers. A multi-racial, multi-cultural, cross-section of our town.

What ails us is lack of community. If we don't get to know each other, it's hard to care. We are sadder, lonelier, more addicted, less healthy. When we get to know each other, we understand that our lives are intimately connected. If you thrive, I thrive. We all do. Simple. It's a place to start.

So here's to Bette. The more we contribute to an empathetic, all for one, one for all community, the more we celebrate the values shot through the remarkable life of someone who represented the best of the Bay.

With a Perspective, I'm Carla Javits.

Carla Javits is president and CEO of an organization that supports and promotes mission-driven businesses known as social enterprises.