John Hettinger, born Dec. 18, 1933, in New York City and Betty Evelyn, born on September 13, 1931 Houston, Texas, were married 51 years. John often said that she was proof you only had to make one good decision in your life.
Betty and John lived on Akindale Farm in Pawling NY. It was property John’s father bought from the Ambassador of Belgium who had bought it from St Bartholomew’s Church. A small chapel was built by the church and remains on the property.
They spent their winters in Florida in Delray Beach and, later, Key West, and summers in Pawling, New York as well as Saratoga Springs for the racing season. They were well known for their support and generosity in the communities where they lived.
And, they led a romantic and adventurous life.
While many women of her generation married and started families young, Betty imagined a different kind of future for herself. She took to the skies as a stewardess for Braniff Airlines, flying the “overnight” flight from Houston to Chicago. She received only one passenger complaint which stated, “Miss Murphy did not wear her hat.”
From there, she and a friend accepted positions working for the United States Air Force in Wiesbaden, Germany, where she met her husband, John Hettinger, while he was stationed there.
During her time with the Air Force, Betty and her friend bought a VW Beetle and drove all over Europe. Her fond memories of her travels included visiting Austria at Christmas and becoming engaged to John on the Pont Alexandre III in Paris. They were married on September 5, 1957 in Wiesbaden.
Fascinated by the language and culture of Mexico, they spent eight years in Mexico City where they welcomed three sons, “Juanie” (John), William and James before relocating to the south of Spain. There John began a career in real estate. He purchased 450 acres of land about five miles east of the Rock of Gibraltar, developed vacation homes, built a road and a beach club and later, sold it all to an investment bank.
The sale of the development allowed Hettinger to return to the United States in 1973 after 17 years abroad and he took over Akindale Farm about 75 miles north of New York City.
John Hettinger was a well known Thoroughbred owner and breeder for over 30 years. Along with his family, John was a majority stockholder of Fasig-Tipton Company the oldest Thoroughbred auction house in the US. Among his many titles were Chairman, Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, former Steward of The Jockey Club; Trustee, New York Racing Association; Director, Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation; and, Director, Blue Horse Charities. John was also the recipient of a special Eclipse Award from the NTRA for his humanitarian work on behalf of horses on and off the racetrack.
He loved horses so much that he devoted the last decade of his life to protecting them from those who would do them harm.
In the end his efforts paid off.
Congress passed a law closing down the three remaining slaughterhouses in the United States. And even though illness had made it difficult for John to even stand on his own, he turned to his wife Betty with a huge grin on his face and said, “Wasn’t this a great year?”
The Hettingers were extraordinary humanitarians and philanthropists; the Pawling community is forever grateful to them for their contribution.
November 18, 2017