A veritable political institution was lost to Novato on September 21 when citizens' rights activist Betty Machado died of a heart attack while hospitalized at Kaiser Hospital in San Rafael.
The former two-term Novato School District Trustee and park and recreation commissioner was a perennial presence at Novato City Council Meetings, a frequent commissioner candidate for the Novato Fire District, was well known at county supervisors' meetings, and a strong advocate for Indian Valley College. Mrs. Machado until recently was a long-time columnist for the Coastal Post-News And Notes Of Novato; hosted a public advocacy cable-TV program; and was a prolific letter writer to local news publications including the Novato Advance and the Independent Journal.
Marin Community College Trustee Barbara Dolan, speaking at the memorial service on Sept. 27, said: "Betty Machado was a mighty woman with a big heart, a great sense of humor and a keen mind. She loved America, California (she was a Daughter of the Golden West), Marin, Novato, her husband Jack, and her grandchildren.
"She was a full time advocate of seniors, good fire service, honest police, good schools, founder of the friends of Indian Valley College. She was so good at zeroing in on waste and fraud. She had vision, always with a plan.
"When I think of a public advocate, Betty was supreme. She was fearless. She rallied people and gave them hope with the force of her personality and vision. Because of Betty a lot more of us now know how to use the tools of democracy: the referendum, the initiative to vote. She was a dynamic voice of the silent majority reaching people with her newspaper column, TV show and public appearances. Betty Machado, a fighter for people's rights, a taxpayers' advocate, a civic watchdog, an ombudsman for Marin. Good-bye, dear heart, God bless you."
Coastal Post Publisher Don Deane on hearing of Mrs. Machado's passing, observed, "Betty was a political bulldog who wouldn't let go of an issue if she believed something untoward, unfair or just plain wrong was happening. Whether it was an individual, a public agency or a politician, her tenacity was boundless. Her columns in the Coastal Post were filled with small unknown political squibits, strong positions on larger issues, and praise and condemnation for politicians. She could be a powerful and compassionate ally or formidable and indefatigable opponent in the public affairs arena. Many, many people in Marin will miss her deeply."
Betty Madsen Machado was born in Oakland, growing up in Glenn County before moving to Sausalito in 1945. She and her husband Jack were pioneers of sorts when they moved to Novato in 1958, an unincorporated bailiwick on 101 long before it could even sympathetically be called a freeway. Betty was a key member of the group that brought incorporation to Novato, making it a city. Jack Machado died in 1998.
She is survived by her daughter, Laura Machodo, her son and his wife, Paul, and Angela Machado of Petaluma. There are five grandchildren, a sister, Shirley Reisinger, and two brothers, Leroy Madsen and Harold Madsen.
The family asks that memorial contributions go to the American Heart Association, PO Box 844, Santa Rosa, CA 95402 or the American Diabetes Association, 2455 Bennett Valley Road, Suite 102-C, Santa Rosa, CA 95404.