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Betty Allen's life was full of giving and volunteering

Published Jan. 11, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — Betty Allen belonged to the St. Petersburg Country Club, but did not play tennis and was terrible at golf.

She worked five days a week into her 80s, earning no paychecks and taking few vacations.

She flourished around crisis, volunteering at a hospital, a police outpost and SPCA Tampa Bay.

She was born here and she died here.

She favored the Million Dollar Pier over The Pier, The Pier over The Lens and Pepin Restaurant over Hooters.

"She was very open and honest, to the point of being brutally honest," said Lee Allen, 56, her son. "She spoke her mind."

A volunteer for at least 60 years, Mrs. Allen probably had the biggest impact on the SPCA. A longtime board member, she helped connect the SPCA with the county's Domestic Violence Task Force and created a teaching position to reach children.

"She saw the link between animal abuse and human violence, and helped the SPCA staff become trained in that area," said Beth Lockwood, the SPCA's former executive director.

A bank president's daughter, Betty Bryan graduated from St. Petersburg High. She attended the University of Kentucky, did a turn as a debutante, and met and married insurance man Bob Allen.

The young mother worked as a candy striper at St. Anthony's Hospital. She persuaded area restaurants to accept "doggie banks" beside their cash registers, then enlisted her three children to roll hundreds of dollars in donated quarters for the SPCA.

For the last two decades, Mrs. Allen managed the Skyway Resource Center, a community relations office of the St. Petersburg Police Department. She worked there four days a week, reserving Wednesdays to do clerical work at St. Anthony's.

She relaxed with fast-paced mystery thrillers and traveling to Duke basketball games with her husband. They stayed at the same hotels, where she greeted the same bellhops and desk clerks by name.

She survived breast cancer and the loss of her husband in 2000, followed by a beloved black Labrador in 2001.

"She wouldn't get another dog," her son said, "because she was more concerned with the dog's fate if she died first than getting companionship."

In 2004, Mrs. Allen was named to the Senior Hall of Fame and given a key to the city.

She was making a phone call Jan. 3 at the resource center when she collapsed. Lee Allen got the call at the St. Petersburg Country Club, where he and his mother had a lunch date. Authorities at Bayfront Medical Center declared that she had died. Mrs. Allen was 83.

"She died doing what she loved best," her son said, "which was volunteering and serving the community. That's the way she wanted to go."

Andrew Meacham can be reached at or (727) 892-2248.