Betty Jean Rondeau
Betty was born in Deerfield Beach, Florida in 1931. She and her family visited the Keys when her father came down following the construction trade, and they finally settled in Marathon in 1942. This was during the War Years, and she has many tales of climbing the water tower at the south end of town to look for enemy ships off their shores. She received a special medal as a “spotter” also. Beachcombing was a favorite pastime in those early days, and she still tells the tale of coming across a crate of pineapple and not being able to eat pineapple jam to this day! Marathon was a sleepy little village back then and she went to a one-room schoolhouse with Mrs. Sue M. Moore as her teacher. As she grew older, she helped to teach the younger ones and then went to classes with a few other older kids with the principal of the school in the afternoon. She finished the 10th grade there and then boarded at the Convent of Mary Immaculate in Key West for her last 2 years of High School, coming back to Marathon in the summer to swim, fish and paint.
When she was about 12 years old, a family friend noticed that she was always drawing and gave her a watercolor set. It became her passion and her life’s work to paint what she saw (and now what she remembers) of old Marathon and the fishing boats. Her father, “Parky Parkhurst”, had gone on to get his Captain’s license and outfitted an old boat as a Charter Boat ... one of Marathon’s first … and named it the Bon Ami. Her mother, Thelma Parkhurst, became one of Florida’s first lady boat Captains. Betty spent many days on the boat and around the docks and they are still her favorite subjects today.
Betty and husband, Ronnie, raised four children and during those years, she began working with Pastels. Soon she was well known for her Portraits of people and occasionally, their pets. She set up out by the pool at the Buccaneer Lodge in Marathon and did many portraits for the tourists there … sometimes receiving photos in the mail to do also.
In November of 2016, Betty fell in her home and hit her head … leaving her left side unable to move. She was relocated to Naples, FL to rehab and then on to Brookdale Senior Living in Bonita Springs where she began again to draw ... and then color her drawings. Eventually, she was able to pick up her paint brush again and has been painting from old photos and memory those places she loved growing up in the Keys. Betty is now 92 years old. Painting has been her life… they called her the “Queen of clouds” in the Watercolor Society which she helped to found in Marathon… and she has won many, many ribbons and awards over her many years there. Her daughter, Meri-Lynn Britz, brings her work to the Shady Palm Gallery every so often and delights in telling her mom that she has sold another one. We hope you will find something that reminds you of the beautiful Florida Keys.