‘Backbone of family’ and ex-Sporting Life editor dies in Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 17:24 18 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:24 18 August 2020
A former journalist who was described as the backbone of his family has died in Welwyn Garden City at the age of 75.
Bob Betts, an ex-greyhound editor at The Sporting Life, who spent the last few years of his life volunteering for Welwyn Hatfield-based drugs and alcohol charity Resolve at its night shelter in Hatfield passed-away on June 19.
His daughter Lucy described his volunteering in the evenings as a time “when he came alive” and Resolve has also nominated him for a posthumous Hero of Hertfordshire award – which he has subsequently won.
Sarah Jamieson, senior project manager at Resolve, said: “He once brought in his 1966 World Cup ticket and sat telling them all about it. The ones that are still staying with us still talk about it.
“He would sit down with guests, whose lives were such a struggle at that time and just chat. We truly valued having him here. Many a tear were shed by staff and guests alike when we heard the news.”
But before him and his wife, Diane, moved to Welwyn Garden City to live with their daughter, Lucy, Bob had lived in North London, where he had been the sole carer of his children after his wife suffered a respiratory illness in 1993.
His daughter Zoe, who was 11 at the time, explained, “At the peak of your career, Dad, you stepped in from then on, as predominantly both ‘Mum and Dad’ to us three.
“The bond we each got from you was stronger than anything. And I’m under no illusion, that’s what makes this all the more difficult for us to accept.”
“The three most important things to you Dad, have always been sport, your career and your family without a doubt.”
On August 12 1978, Bob married his wife “in his own little love story”, according to Zoe, after jumping over the bar at the Railway Tavern in New Barnet.
After beginning at The Sporting Life with a short story in 1972, Bob is described as “a great planner and a strategist” who continued working in the national and sports press for many years after the newspaper closed in 1998.
“You have always been so transparent about what’s right and what’s not, through both our upbringing and you career, you advocated for what was good, right and honourable, for what is fair in betting and racing and for equality,” Zoe said.
When he needed to go into work in Canary Wharf, Zoe explains he never made them feel like they came second to his career.
“That must have been hard for you to balance on so many occasions.
“We never got any hint of the strain and I so wish we could tell you now, how much we realise that – and thank you for it. You true champion.”
Lucy also fondly remembers their Greyhound, Luzostev, named after his three children, Lucy, Zoe and Steve.
“We grew up around betting and a dog track and around that world. We spent a lot of time together there with him and going to different events.”
But mostly, Lucy – who is currently pregnant – is sad that Bob will not see her third child born.
“He was so playful with the children and loved playing football with my son.
“He just adored them and always wanted to see them and spend time with them.”
Zoe added: “You have always been the backbone of our family. You’re the most generous man we’ll ever know, always turning up with a thoughtful or silly gesture, even if it made your 30 minutes late.”
This could be flowers, wine or the tic-tacs Bob was obsessed with.
Bob, who was also a chairman of the Greyhound Writers’ Association, loss was described by the current head Jonathan Hobbs as a “sad day for those of us who write about the sport we love”.
“Bob was extremely proud of how the greyhound press carried out both with integrity.
“He struggled with his health in recent years but even after suffering a stroke he recovered sufficiently to make the GRA’s twice-yearly get-together and, without fail, would arrive armed with a few words for the members and guests in attendance. Bob was always allowed the floor to speak – and it was from the heart as a fan of the sport.
“My thoughts are with Bob’s family. He was hugely proud of them, and those nights at the GBGB Greyhound of the Year Awards with his son Steve, usually with the ‘Admiral’ John Benbow on one side and Mark Sullivan on the other, are bringing a smile to my face as I write these words.”
Bob’s family have also set up a giving page for the Resolve Night Shelter and have already exceeded their target of over £2,500.
You can donate more by going here localgiving.org/fundraising/BobBetts.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.