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Thursday, July 18, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Frederick V. Betts, attorney, Plymouth Church donor

The busy life of attorney Frederick V. Betts, co-founder of a Seattle law firm, will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Wednesday in a memorial service at Plymouth Congregational Church, which he joined in 1919.

Not only was Mr. Betts one of Plymouth's longest-term members, he also was one of its most generous, donating freely to the church he clearly loved — and especially to its music program.

The organ in the church's chapel was donated by Mr. Betts and his wife, Arline, said Steve Williams, Plymouth's music director.

After Arline Betts died, Mr. Betts' donations were made in her memory. "He was a wonderful man," Williams said, who wanted both to support the church and to honor his wife.

Williams said that once a year, he and Mr. Betts discussed the church's music program for the coming year over lunch. "He would slyly ask how much it would cost, and (later) the money would appear," Williams said.

Mr. Betts, co-founder of the law firm Betts, Patterson & Mines, died July 4. He was 94. The word integrity comes to mind when friends talk about Mr. Betts.

"If Fred said it was so, it was so," said Mike Mines, who co-founded the law firm with Mr. Betts in 1979. "His word was his bond."

"I think Fred exemplified how disputes can be settled fairly and decently and with integrity," Mines said. "He was my mentor. I hope to be as honorable as Fred."

In 1979, Mr. Betts was named Outstanding Lawyer of the Year by the King County Bar Association.

The bar association article that accompanied his selection said he deserved the honor because of the respect he had gained from clients, lawyers, jurors and judges. The respect was for his "integrity and straightforwardness and abilities. But there's more. Whatever Fred does is done with wit, courtesy and good humor."

Also in 1979, Mr. Betts was honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Washington Law School, where he graduated in 1933.

He was a Seattle native, born in the upstairs bedroom of the Queen Anne home where he lived until about a year ago.

During World War II, Mr. Betts initially was turned down for military service because of a bad leg. Wanting to do something for his country, he went to work for Boeing from 4 p.m. to midnight, then got up early to be at his law office at 8 a.m. After the Army finally accepted him, Mr. Betts served as a lawyer at Camp Lewis, now Fort Lewis, representing soldiers returning from the South Pacific.

A 1987 profile of Mr. Betts noted that he was one of the hardest-working attorneys in the state, managing a huge caseload and loving it. "He's not happy unless he is trying at least four cases a day," one judge said of him. Age didn't slow him down much. Until just before he died, Mr. Betts visited his law firm four days a week, offering advice and leadership.

In 1987, Betts told an interviewer, "It's been a good life; I've had fun."

There are no survivors. Donations are suggested to the Frederick V. and Arline E. Betts Memorial Music Endowment at Plymouth Congregational Church, 1217 Sixth Ave., Seattle, WA 98101, or to Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center, P.O. Box 5371 MS CL-04, Seattle, WA 98105.

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