By Meda Kessler
Photos by Ron Jenkins
A sense of humor, a love of music and a wanderlust for adventure brought this couple together for life’s second act.
While George and Betsy Chaffee are ordinary people by definition, their inspirational story is one of loss, love and adventure. Which is why we chose them for this issue’s Hey, Neighbor profile.
He’s 76 and she’s 68. While they carry gracefully the wisdom of their years, their youthful spirit is infectious. Both are native Texans, too.
George is from Fort Worth and attended Paschal High School and Texas Tech. His public relations career took him from Oklahoma to Missouri to Kansas before he settled down in the Hill Country near Lake Travis with Judy, his first wife, who died in 2011 due to complications from a brain tumor. They had been married 45 years.
Betsy Brewer grew up and lived most of her life in San Antonio, although she did attend the University of Texas at Austin. In San Antonio, Betsy worked for American Express and became a business owner at the age of 50, when she bought a spa franchise. Her first marriage, she says, sadly ended in divorce. The thought of dating was intimidating.
But seven years ago, George and Betsy decided to give it a go. They met on Match. com; both agree it was awkward.
“You need a good sense of humor,” says Betsy. But they talked on the phone and texted each other. George would make an appointment for a facial just to try and see Betsy at her spa.
“We both were tentative,” says Betsy. “I knew all about Judy and George’s children. Meeting them made me very nervous.”
George, in the meantime, came to realize how popular Betsy was in San Antonio. “It was like dating the character Norm from Cheers. We would go to a restaurant or a bar and everyone knew her.”
The couple spent three years commuting and courting. One of the early tests in their relationship was their first vacation together: a road trip to Lubbock in a Casita, a small travel trailer. They survived and so did the relationship.
When George proposed to Betsy, he asked her if she had a passport. He definitely had bigger journeys in mind for both of them. They were wed June 2013 in Carmel-by-the-Sea with the Pacific Ocean as a scenic backdrop and family in attendance. The bride wore a white ensemble she called “comfortable as pajamas.” The groom wore a white sports jacket.
Their honeymoon took them to Italy, now a favorite destination for the couple. When a cruise got canceled, they sleuthed out home rentals in and around Tuscany and stayed in the picturesque wine country for 16 days. “We stayed in a beautiful place, took Italian lessons and got to know so many locals,” says George.
They also made new friends — fellow travelers from around the world. On a trip to Australia, they met up with a couple whom they had become acquainted with on their trip to Tuscany. Some friends have even visited them in Fort Worth.
George is admittedly the more adventurous traveler; Betsy allows that she’s not at all fond of cold weather. A recent trip to Alaska gave George a chance to cross off a bucket list item: to see the aurora borealis. “It was minus 30 degrees,” George says, “but at least I did get to see the lights. And I got to go dog sledding, too.”
He’s also been scuba diving, snorkeling with sea lions and has gone skydiving. Betsy and George’s travels also have taken them to San Miguel, Spain, and France, and they have hopes of going to Africa.
But they still enjoy exploring Fort Worth, which is fairly new for them. Their favorite restaurants include nearby Righteous Foods and Eddie V’s, along with Mi Cocula Mexican Grill in Ridglea. When it’s convertible weather, George enjoys taking his Porsche Boxster for a spin.
The Chaffees live in a small established development in Monticello. The three-story condo gave them a chance to combine households and downsize. Getting to know their neighbors is easy and, instead of a yard, they have a private patio on the first floor and an outdoor space off their bedroom on the third level.
They held on to a few family antiques but wanted an updated look for their living room. Betsy worked with Mark Vaughan of Domain XCIV after she had purchased a pair of chairs there in a turquoise and gray print. “I love color,” says Betsy. Vaughan added a complementary area rug, accessories and a comfortable sofa to complete the new look. A spacious kitchen is filled with natural light.
Betsy’s piano and George’s guitar and ukelele are on display. Both sang in bands when they were in their 20s; George has played the ukulele at weddings and funerals. His version of “Over the Rainbow,” made famous by Hawaiian singer Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, will make you smile and cry.
These days, with a growing circle of friends and a new grandbaby, there’s a lot more smiling. “After we got married, we wanted someplace that gave both of us a fresh start,” says Betsy. “Fort Worth is perfect.”