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San Clemente Journal

Betty Schleicher Living an Extraordinarily Ordinary Life

Apr 07, 2021 11:39AM ● By Anne Batty
By Editor Anne BAtty

The desire to own an ocean view home brought San Clementean Betty Schleicher and her family to the Spanish Village by the Sea. Once here, they not only found their dream home, but discovered the perfect place to live, work and raise a growing family.

Betty and her pup enjoy cycling around town.

 “In the ‘60s, San Clemente was a small town, not very well-known,” Schleicher shared. “Our family had always spent summers in Newport and Laguna Beach, eventually settling in Newport Beach. We had very little knowledge of anything further south. While working in real estate it became my desire at one point to find a fixer overlooking the ocean, and along with a little bit of luck we found one here.” 

Born on a date ranch and raised in an adobe house that her father built (presently preserved as historically original by the Indian Wells Historical Society), Elizabeth “Betty” Beck Schleicher was endowed with a hard-work ethic. Upon moving to the beach cities, her husband Kim’s successes in real estate management for Tarbell, Coldwell Banker and RE/MAX realtors, was the impetus to her venture into real estate. It was an endeavor that allowed her time to work, manage a home, and mother their four children, sons Kevin, Kurt, Kyle and daughter Kathleen. 

But never being one satisfied with one thing for long, after spending six years selling real estate Schleicher was restless, ready to move on to new challenges. So in the late ‘70s her entrepreneurial spirit emerged and she opened a shop in San Juan Capistrano where she designed and created formal dress wear. She named it the Elizabeth Shop (after her given name), and although experiencing success there, soon took advantage of an opportunity to move the shop to the Old City Plaza in San Clemente. Back in her hometown, she began designing and producing bleached denim outfits with matching appliqué shirts, as well as other trendy women’s clothing.

“Creating … drawing, painting, arts and crafts (including knitting, crocheting, sewing, designing) have all been an important part of my life and have brought me much joy,” she said. “I grew up in the day when the Singer Sewing Machine Company was giving sewing lessons in their shops for free. What a huge advantage that was. I began sewing when I was ten-years-old and made many of my own clothes and formal dresses for years; as well as some of my children’s clothes in their youth.”

A consummate multi-tasker and a woman of deep faith, amid working and raising a family, Betty also found time to attend the non-denominational Bible Study Fellowship held at the Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach. During her five years of study with that fellowship she felt led to teach Bible Study to those of her own faith. And for the next seven years she studied at the Archdiocese of Orange’s Marywood Pastoral Center (a facility training lay people for leadership in the Catholic Church) becoming certified as a Catholic Bible Study Teacher for the Catholic Church.  

“When I received my certification to teach Bible Study, I began teaching at Our Lady of Fatima Church here in town, at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, and at St. Peters Church in Fallbrook,” Schleicher said. “It was a very special time in my life, and like most of those who teach, in the process I benefited and grew in my faith as much as the students did.”

Although born and raised Catholic and educated in Catholic schools, Betty had a heart for, and interest in, those of all denominations, and along with teaching Bible Studies Betty also became active in the Women’s Aglow Fellowship, an organization of Christian Women whose focus is on prayer, evangelism, relationship and reconciliation. During that time she not only held meetings in her home, she established and operated the Alpha Nea Recovery Home for young girls (a Women’s Aglow project). She has continued to participate in various other programs of recovery for women of all ages for the past 50 years. “Being available to help suffering people has brought me the greatest rewards in my life,” she said.

When life happened in the tragic loss of her daughter at the hands of an addict, Schleicher took time off from her outside activities to help raise her two grandsons. But true to her nature, she wasn’t idle for long. Tapping into her innate artistic ability she took up the study of art with some of the more well-known teachers in Laguna Beach. 

“My favorite teachers were Marlene Gerloff, Roger Folk, David Solomon and Roger Armstrong,” Betty revealed. “I loved listening to Roger Armstrong tell stories of his beginnings with Disney when they were drawing the flip pages to make the characters move. One day, in his elder years, he fell asleep during class while sitting leaning on his cane and I sketched him. The painting I did of that scene was eventually hung in the Community Center Art Gallery.”

Not only was Schleicher beginning to display her art in San Clemente, as well as other south county communities, she began entering and winning contests, like the Best of Show, Paint San Clemente and The Quick Paint contests here in town. 

Speaking about those experiences Betty said, “These contests required the stamping of your art papers.  So one year I got my equipment set up on the pier, went to get my paper stamped and when I returned to the pier to paint, it was engulfed in fog. Being too lazy to move my equipment, and being very familiar with the scene, I painted from memory … and miracle of all miracles I won 2nd place!” 

After displaying her art and competing and winning many more art contests Schleicher was motivated to teach watercolor art classes through the City of San Clemente’s Recreation Department. And for the past 22 years has been doing just that.

“The greatest experience I have had teaching art is to get to know so many wonderful, talented people in town and from neighboring communities,” Betty shared. “Many have become my close friends over the years, some still attending my classes today.” 

Like most hard working entrepreneurs in today’s climate, Betty has had to find creative ways to continue offering art classes to the community. While she has reverted to teaching community classes with masks and social distancing outdoors in San Luis Rey Park, in order to teach those individuals still apprehensive about leaving their homes she has had to be even more creative.  
“For those needing individual classes, I have devised a back and forth email system,” Schleicher explained. “I send the student a sample water color picture attached to an email. The student then paints their picture using the sample as an aid. They resend to me for critic then make corrections accordingly. It is a laborious system, but seems to be working for those needing to stay sheltered.”

Wife, mother, business woman, mentor, artist, teacher, Betty Schleicher has worn many hats in her lifetime. Hers has been an extraordinarily ordinary life with the twists, turns, ups, downs, and even tragedy that life can throw at all of us. But through it all she has remained a steadfast woman of faith, relying on her self-professed secret to life … “trust God … one day at a time … don’t expect … don’t hold grudges … and be married to a very busy man.”

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