|Birth: ||Jul. 9, 1911|
|Death: ||Sep. 20, 2004|
She witnessed the land boom that created South Florida, the 1926 hurricane that shook it and the Art Deco building era that gave it a style.
The personal history of Betty Wright Vargo, of Margate, FL parallels the region's signal events of the early to mid-20th century. Mrs. Vargo, who died Sept 20, 2004 at age 93, had lived in South Florida since 1924.
During her working years she sold chocolates and hats on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach and was a secretary for the now-defunct Pan American World Airways and the Orange Bowl Committee, said her son, David Vargo.
She befriended famous people but, with a Forrest Gump-like innocence, only found out who they were afterward. "She did lead a bit of a charmed life in a lot of ways. Nice things were always happening to her," said Vargo, of Lighthouse Point. "But she was always doing the next right thing, too."
She shared many of her best stories with her son, a corporate promoter and marketer.
Mrs. Vargo was born in Pittsfield, Mass., on July 9, 1911. Her father, a railroad engineer, was transferred from place to place before landing in Miami with a passel of relatives, all lured to the semi-tropics by the prospect of cheap land, in 1924.
Two years later, a powerful hurricane took them unawares. The windows blew out of Mrs. Vargo's house and she was terrified, but a worse fate seemed to claim her great-aunt.
"Her entire house went up in the air," Vargo said. She was found "face down in a swamp, and they thought she was dead." She wasn't; she moved to Detroit and never set foot in Florida again.
Mrs. Vargo's immediate family stayed, the Depression hit, and her father became sick and died in 1935. She went to work for Nunnalley's Candy, the Godiva of its day, according to Vargo. One day a man with a cork prosthetic for a left leg had his chauffeur invite the pretty sales clerk to bring her array of chocolates to his limousine parked on Lincoln Road.
He bought some candy and tipped her $10, a huge sum at that time. Only later did she learn he was Edward "Ned" Green, whose riches were inherited from his mother, Hetty Green. The "Witch of Wall Street," a shrewd investor and notorious miser, had skimped on medical care for her son's injured leg until it had to be amputated.
Mrs. Vargo went to work for Hartley’s Millinery. "She spent the afternoon trying hats on Wallis Simpson," David Vargo said. Mrs. Simpson later married a king and became the Duchess of Windsor.
The sales clerk married Joseph Vargo, a soldier from Passaic, N.J., she met at a USO dance in Bayfront Park during World War II. He installed air-conditioning in new skyscrapers and she happily quit her job to become a full-time wife and, Mrs. Vargo hoped, a mother.
The couple celebrated their 60th anniversary in January, and Joseph, 88, survives her.
The Vargos adopted a son, David at birth.
ARTICLE BY NOREEN MARCUS - Broward County Sun-Sentinel - 9/23/04
Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery
Plot: Mausoleum - Inside Ground Level
Created by: David Vargo
Record added: Sep 27, 2004
Find A Grave Memorial# 9523899