Is pleased to recognize
Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
I was delighted when Debbie Stevenson asked me to write the tribute page for the Lifetime Breeder Achievement Award for Betty White. We’ve been friends for many years and I think there aren’t too many people out there who have equaled her accomplishments in not only breeding outstanding Siamese but in being a vocal and proactive advocate for and protector of the breed. Betty’s contributions to the breed include a devotion to the aesthetics and health of our cats, a steadfast devotion to protecting the purity of the breed, and unfailing integrity and sincerity in promoting her vision of our magnificent cats.
Many experienced breeders recognize the hallmarks of an Angkor Rose cat. When they see a cat with noticeable refinement, an exceptionally long, hard body, a long head, incredibly clear color with dense point color, and eye color that exemplifies "deep vivid blue," they often speculate that "that cat probably has Angkor Rose behind it," and they are frequently correct. I met Betty at my second show in July 1985. She was showing a chocolate point female kitten. My novice impression was that I had never seen anything like it before. Here was this spidery little thing, with long, dainty legs, a very long, "pointy" head, a tail that looked like a pencil, a body like a Pringle’s can, and it was ivory and milk chocolate with sapphire blue eyes. I was fascinated with her and decided that a cat like that took some getting used to! It didn’t take too long—pretty soon I began pestering her for a kitten. The interesting thing is the Angkor Rose "look" has persisted. My Angkor Rose girl I have right now is a seal point version of that spidery kitten of 17 years ago and I find her more gorgeous every day. Betty has passed on her vision of beauty to many of us!
Betty has not only emphasized beauty in our breed, but she has been a tireless campaigner for the health of our cats, too. She was the Chairperson of the CFA Health Committee and has begun a drive to raise money to fund mammary cancer research since this cancer is not only one of the largest killers of felines in general, but one that takes an exceptionally heavy toll on our Siamese. She has worked on behalf of the Winn Foundation to raise funds for many kinds of research. Like most of us, she has lost a beloved cat to one of the feline diseases and she has been active in helping to further research. I remember her telling me about losing the feline love of her life, Choctaw, at a very young age and how the devastation she felt nearly resulted in her getting out of the cat fancy. Instead, she followed her heart and continued to work with this breed that is part of our souls and funneled her energies to promoting health through better husbandry and medical research.
Very few breeders in any breed have been more vociferous and active in protecting the purity of their breed than Betty has with the Siamese. While a Director-At-Large on the CFA Board of Directors, Betty was a driving force in the passage of WIAB. She has always ardently believed that parent breeds need to be protected from those who would follow the crowd in other associations or other countries and lump both the parents and the hybrids in one big melting pot. While that often makes for good people politics, in the purebred animal world it can be a destructive force. When something needs "fixing" in a hybrid breed, if the parent breed is no longer pure, where will they go for the cure, if there is no purity left? This is the purists’ concern that Betty has so steadfastly worked toward.
Perhaps Betty’s own hallmark is her integrity and sincerity. No matter whether we agree with her or not, we don’t question her motivations. When she is wearing her judge’s hat in the ring, her admiration for and appreciation of all the breeds is evident. She does what she thinks is right in making her decisions in the ring, whether it is the "popular" thing to do or not. She is as close to apolitical as it is possible to be. Some of us have kidded her that when she gets ready to hang ribbons "her way," she "moves faster" than normal—we decided that was her way of saying with body language, "THIS is the way I see it!" I think this attitude on her part gains respect from those of us who want our cats judged independently of who we are. <G> And Lord only knows, I’m grateful when she does like one of my cats because she’s incredibly loyal to that cat!
Betty White is one of those rare treasures whom we should all be grateful to know. Her attributes of an appreciation for beauty, a steadfastness to her beliefs, and her staunch integrity have benefited the Siamese breed for over 35 years now. In her heart the Siamese is always Number One. The Siamese breed is infinitely better for what she has contributed to it. Thank you, Betty, you deserve this award.
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