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Bette Deziel, 93, earns recognition from the city of Manhattan Beach for 65 years of service with the local Soroptimist International Club. (Photo by Kirsten Farmer)

Bette Deziel can’t even begin to explain how much the city of Manhattan Beach has changed since she moved here more than five decades ago.

But one thing has remained constant: Deziel’s participation in the Soroptimist International Club that leads service projects for women and children.

In fact, she’s the last surviving charter member of the Manhattan Beach club, which now boasts 53 members.

At 93 years old, she has given more than 65 years of service to the club she helped start, earning her special recognition at a recent city council meeting.

“It was very surprising because number one I never thought I’d live this long,” joked Deziel, who said she appreciated being recognized. “I have given a lot of time and, when I was able to walk and do things...I did spend a lot of time (working for the club.)”

In presenting Deziel with a certificate and pin at the May 21 city council meeting, Mayor Steve Napolitano called her an icon for the city and for women everywhere.

“You have been a pillar of our community, doing incredible work for women, young ladies and children.”

65 years of service

Deziel was first approached to join Soroptimist International in 1954. She was working at the jewelry store she and her husband owned, Don’s Jewelers, on Manhattan Beach Boulevard.

The Soroptimist International Club of Inglewood was looking to start a new chapter in Manhattan Beach and asked if she’d like to participate.

“I didn’t know what it was or anything about it,” Deziel said of the international club that originally started in 1921 in Oakland. “But it was a service club and that’s what I wanted so I joined.”

Deziel spent the next 65 years working with the club on local service projects, including helping to create and distribute ‘Breast Cancer Comfort Bags’ to women in area hospitals undergoing cancer treatment, which she said was one her favorite projects.

“I think they’re all my favorites,” she mused.

Although she now participates in a different capacity due to limited mobility, Manhattan Beach Club President Cheryl Abel said Deziel is still integral.

“She’s so symbolic of our history and gives us inspiration all the time,” Abel said. “So much of what we do harkens back to what she tells us our club was started for...for service.”

Deziel said one of her favorite aspects of Soroptimist is that the club was focused more on providing help than raising money.

“We’re not a chatty Cathy club, we’re strictly a service club,” she added. “(Soroptimist) is important for the whole South Bay, (but) I think it’s really good for girls and women because that’s mainly what we concentrate on.”

Besides the cancer support bags and supporting the Redondo Beach Luna film festival, the Soroptimist International of Manhattan Beach has two other ongoing, local projects—Live Your Dream and Dream It Be It—both aimed at helping women and girls overcome difficult circumstances to achieve higher education and career goals, according to Abel.

She added that Deziel, who writes birthday cards for all the members, is still the heart of the club.

“She stands for so much, she’s the pulse,” Abel said.

For more information on Soroptimist International, visit https://www.simanhattanbeach.org/

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