90th ‘Jubilee Birthday’ celebration held for beloved Cardiff resident Betsy Barnhart


There was a festive ambiance as friends and family gathered on Sept. 7 to celebrate the 90th “Jubilee Birthday” of Betsy Barnhart, a Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident who was being feted not only for her milestone birthday but also for her faith-inspired social activism.

Held outdoors at the home of Francine and David Busby, (Francine is current chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party), about 50 guests toasted Barnhart while also raising funds for Jubilee USA/San Diego, the local affiliate of a national charity that strives for global economic justice.

The idea to combine Barnhart’s celebration with a fundraiser came from her close friend and former pastor Bill Harmon, who was one of the founders of Jubilee USA in 1977 when several Lutheran clergymen convened in Germany to discuss what could be done to help impoverished nations.

A special guest was in attendance: Eric Le Compte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, who flew in from Washington, D.C., specifically to wish Barnhart a “Happy Birthday.” All guests were invited to make a charitable donation in multiples of nine.

“The smallest donation that I saw was $18 and the largest was $900,” said Barnhart, who has been active with Jubilee for nine years and is the local affiliate’s treasurer. In all, $3,000 was raised, she said.

Busby, also a Jubilee member, commented, “People love Betsy and this was reflected in the celebratory feeling at the party which was our way of honoring her for the years of volunteer work that she has done with joy and enthusiasm.”

Barnhart – whose actual birthday is Sept. 5 – was born in New Jersey but was 3 when her family moved to Pasadena, where she started volunteering when she reached age 10. Later, as a college student, she volunteered with the South Bay Ecumenical Council, helping develop programs for the hungry and homeless.

As a stay-at-home mother of three she was also able to devote her time to family while volunteering in the PTA, Red Cross, Community Chest and local church programs. Then, in 1971, when Barnhart relocated to Palos Verdes with her husband Paul, she worked for United Way, the Volunteer Center and Head Start.

The couple moved to Cardiff in 1993, but Paul Barnhart passed away in 1996. To help fill the void, Barnhart found her “all-time favorite volunteer job” when she began reading to children at the Cardiff-by-the-Sea Library where she is known as Grandma Betsy. It turned into a 20-year endeavor. Some of those children are now college students but still come to visit her. Barnhart also tutors elementary school children in reading.

In addition she volunteers at the Community Resource Center, is active in the San Dieguito Interfaith Ministerial Association (SDIMA) and helps raise funds for Jubilee through her church Christ Church Presbyterian in Carlsbad.

Barnhart was touched by the outpouring of love at her special party, specifically thanking hosts Francine and David Busby, Harmon for initiating the idea, Dolores Welty who helped coordinate the event, and her three adult children Bruce, Nancy and Barbara.

When asked what is the secret of her longevity, Barnhart answered, “I drink lots of water, walk three days a week and exercise at the Y twice a week, and I follow my passion by doing something for somebody else every day.”

“I can’t tell you how many people, including me, have said, ‘I want to be like Betsy when I’m her age,’” said Busby. “It is a tribute to her graciousness and gusto for a life centered on joyful volunteering to make the world a little better every day in her own special way.”