The Cambrian

Betty Fiscalini, longtime environmental advocate, dies in Cambria at 86

Betty Fiscalini in 2006.
Betty Fiscalini in 2006.

Betty Fiscalini, 86, who helped shape environmental protection for the area she loved, died at her Cambria ranch home Tuesday afternoon. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September.

Fiscalini earned many honors, from selection as a Cuesta College “Woman of Distinction” in 2004, based on her community and public-service volunteerism, to serving as Cambria’s Pinedorado Parade marshal in 2006.

A devoted ranch wife at the helm of the Fiscalini family, which settled on the North Coast in 1873, Betty Fiscalini spent more than 60 years working to make situations better for from people from many walks of life. Those who knew her say she approached her causes and her life with dedication and humor, civility and an upbeat nature, twinkling eyes and an infectious laugh.

Her accomplishments include:

  • Co-founding the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County;
  • Co-founding the county Crime Stoppers program;
  • Leading a campaign to upgrade county Juvenile Hall facilities and programs for those in it;
  • Finding funding for the Cal Poly Mustang statue;
  • Participating in a drive to save and restore Old Santa Rosa Chapel in Cambria;
  • Laboring for decades on county- and state-wide agricultural programs helping family farms and ranches prosper; and
  • Being a catalyst for environmental causes, especially open space preservation.

Betty Jean Bowser, as she was then known, first visited Cambria in 1939. She returned in 1950 as the bride of rancher Louis Fiscalini, and worked for years as a registered nurse.

“She was a nurse of the heart, not just by occupation,” said her friend of 34 years, former county Supervisor Shirley Bianchi. “And she always, always was such a loyal friend to her people, her land and her county.”

Among Betty Fiscalini’s proudest achievements was the preservation of the oceanfront land that used to be Fiscalini Town Ranch. She and her husband tried unsuccessfully to convince the state Coastal Conservancy to buy the land when the family had to sell it to pay taxes triggered by the death of seven family members between 1970 to 1990.

After the land sold twice to people who wanted to develop it, the community banded together with American Land Conservancy and various public agencies to buy what the then-owners called East West Ranch.

“Nothing could have made me happier,” Fiscalini said then.

She later said she got involved in so many different causes because, “I would pray, asking God to lead me to the things he wanted me to accomplish.”

But every so often, she said with a laugh, “I’d get on my knees and tell God, ‘Enough for now. I’m really very tired.’”

Fiscalini is survived by children Gloria Fiscalini-Cusumano of Cambria, Patricia Fiscalini of Templeton and David Fiscalini of Cambria, and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, Dec. 7, at Santa Rosa Catholic Church, 1174 Main St., Cambria.