When I was little, I’d see Betty Pat every Christmas Eve at Aunt Mackie’s.
I have no idea how she fit into our family.
As far as I know, she wasn’t actually kin, but she was like a celebrity or something.
Most Christmas Eves, Betty Pat would arrive fashionably late and create such a stir.
She and I would be the only (cool) people dressed in Cowboy gear.
I’d be decked out in my cowboy shirt, jeans, red boots and Fanner Fifty pistols (below).
Betty Pat would wearing an embroidered cowboy shirt, jeans, huge Western belt buckle, the coolest cowboy boots with silver toes, and a classic Western or American Indian jacket (top photo).
As if that was not cool enough, she also drove a Corvette Stingray.
I wanted Betty Pat to adopt me, so we could drive off into the sunset in her ‘vette, and maybe go lasso some bucking broncos.
I loved Betty Pat way before I learned that she was famous.
Do you remember the terrific TV show Quincy, M.E. that ran from 1976-1983?
It starred Jack Klugman as an eccentric Medical Examiner and “co-starred” Betty Pat (at least in my mind).
You never saw her face, just her talented hands as they painstakingly used clay to turn an unidentified skull into a recognizable human being.
In real life, back in the Sixties, Betty Pat and Dr. Clyde Snow developed what was called the Gatliff/Snow American Tissue Depth Method to help identify plane crash victims.
According to People Magazine:
“Betty Pat’s interest in her specialized field began when she combined an art major with a science minor at the Oklahoma College for Women at Chickasha. She went on to develop her skills during 19 years as a medical illustrator at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Oklahoma City laboratory.”
You really can’t, in one blog, cover all the cool stuff Betty Pat did, but here are three snippets:
- She sculpted a bust of John F. Kennedy for ballistics tests conducted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations.
- She worked with the FBI to help catch serial killer John Wayne Gacy. After she reconstructed nine of the victims’ skulls, their images were made public, which helped identify them. Betty Pat worked on over 200 cases with law enforcement agencies.
- She worked with Dr. Snow to create this facial reconstruction of King Tut. It was featured Life Magazine in 1983 and again in National Geographic World in 1985.
Each year, she taught ‘Skullpture’ for two weeks at Scottsdale Artists’ School in Arizona, Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio, and the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
Betty Pat never married and lived in Norman with her widowed mother and poodle, Midget.
But I only knew her as my Cowboy Christmas buddy with the big laugh, the knowing eyes, and totally awesome cowboy duds.
UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!
Through fate and the wonders of social media, I just talked to Betty Pat!
She retired two years ago, at 82, and still lives in Norman! How about them apples?
I may do another blog on her, because people have already reminded me of so many Betty Pat stories that I’d plumb forgot about!
Here’s more on Betty Pat:
Click here for a photo and short profile.
People Magazine story about her work on the John Wayne Gacy serial killer case.
NewsOK story about how she helped Louisiana surgeons rebuild a man’s destroyed face.
You Tube clip that talks briefly about Betty Pat and Dr. Snow and shows some skull restoration/identification work (not for the faint-hearted)