Dancing Through Life
“My mother is a force of nature and the most positive person I know.”
– Norman Buckley
The 1920s were the flapper years – short skirts, the Charleston, and bootleggers. In 1925, a baby girl was born in a small town in Oklahoma. Betty Bob Diltz moved to Big Spring, Texas, as the Jazz Age ended, growing up as a child of the Depression. The 1930s and 1940s were difficult for the United States as a whole and for Betty Bob’s family in particular.
When she was 10, Betty Bob was in a car accident with her paternal grandparents that took her grandmother’s life. Her mother’s health declined, and her maternal grandmother stepped in to help care for the family. When Betty Bob was 13, her father died. She lost her brother in World War II.
Despite these adversities, Betty Bob grew up a happy child. She has fond memories of her youth in West Texas, which is where she fell in love with show business.
“As a child, I loved to sing and dance and perform in front of audiences.”
Betty Bob’s older sister, Mary Ruth, danced at Casa Mañana in the late 1930s and taught dance in several towns around Texas. Mary Ruth, as well as their mother, encouraged Betty Bob to take the stage whenever an opportunity arose. While she became a journalist, her love of performing never waned.
Journalism in the first half of the 20th century was a male-dominated world. However, Betty Bob’s career in that demanding field lasted for over 40 years and through numerous moves. “When I moved to a new town, the first thing I would do is contact the newspaper staff. They were always the nicest people.”
Betty Bob recalled her first byline, a story of the D-Day invasion, written when she was only 18.
“The D-Day story was my first byline feature on the front page of Big Spring Herald. The editor sent me downtown to talk to the citizens – such a somber time. People were gathered around car radios listening intently. I was excited to express feelings for our brave young soldiers so far away attacking the shores of a foreign country.”
During World War II, Big Spring was home to the Big Spring Army Airfield, a training field for bombardiers. Betty Bob and her girlfriends would go to the base for dances with the air cadets. It was a one of these dances that she met Ernest Buckley, who she would marry. Ernest’s military career took them far from West Texas. Betty Bob, Ernest, and their growing family moved from Maine to Morocco, finally settling for a time in South Dakota, where Ernest served as the Dean of Engineering at South Dakota State University. Ernest passed away at the age of 65 in 1989.
After moving to Fort Worth, Betty Bob served as director of public relations for Casa Mañana, establishing friendships that last to this day. Through her journalism fraternity, Women in Journalism, she founded the Celebrity Breakfast in Fort Worth – a group that raised funds for journalism scholarships, at times raising more money than any other chapter in the United States.
Betty Bob can’t talk about her life without frequent mentions of her four children, her greatest accomplishments. Two of her children inherited their mother’s love of performing and carved out successful careers in show business. Her youngest, Norman, is a director whose credits include such shows as Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl, and most recently the Netflix show Sweet Magnolias. Her oldest is Betty Lynn, known to the world as Betty Buckley, star of stage and screen. Her twins, Michael and Patrick, became successful engineers. Sadly, Michael passed away in 2020.
Today, Betty Bob is 96 and lives in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood in Fort Worth. She has assistants to help her, but she lives alone with her Yorkie, Taz.
“My mom is a very social person, and she enjoys reminiscing,” Norman said. “It’s sad that no one is left from the first half of her life to share memories of those long-ago days.”
Her best friend, Bobbie Wygant, a reporter for NBC5 for over 70 years, still visits frequently. And Betty Bob loves going to lunch at local tearooms where anyone who is fortunate enough to accompany her will feel like a celebrity.
The little girl from West Texas dreamed big and achieved great things. Betty Bob Buckley danced through life, both literally and metaphorically, and although the tune is slower now, she still sways to the melody.
Linda Simmons is a Fort Worth-based writer.