Alec Bettencourt was proud of serving his country in World War II. He was also proud of his wizardry at Whist, which he played every weekend, making the rounds of granges throughout the county for card nights. Even in his last years his pockets jangled with quarters won in games at the senior center.
"He would wink at me and say, 'I got 'em today,'" said his daughter Lori Bettencourt of Santa Rosa.
The Army Air Corps veteran, who had spent all but the first six months of his life and three years of the war in Sonoma County, died of prostate cancer Wednesday at a Santa Rosa board and care home. He was 93.
"He was a very happy go lucky person who really liked to talk with his hands," Lori Bettencourt said.
He could have called himself a Petaluma native if it weren't for the visit back home made by his parents, Portuguese immigrants. Alexander was born Dec. 2, 1920, on the island of Sao Jorge (St. George), in The Azores. When he was 6 months old, Alexander returned with his parents to Petaluma, where they worked on dairies and raised milk cows on their own Pepper Road property.
Bettencourt never returned to The Azores, but he remained connected to Portuguese roots.
"He was a member of all the different Portuguese halls," Lori Bettencourt said. "He would go to all the Portuguese dances, and he would eat Sopa."
He stood only 5-feet 2-inches, the smallest in his family. But he was could box and he was tough, never complaining about pain.
"The story was, he didn't take no sh... off of no one," his daughter said with a laugh.
Bettencourt was a cook in The 7th Army Air Corps Division during World War II, serving in Hawaii and Okinawa. He mastered the art of making good food, literally, for an army. And while he would defer to his wife Eileen in the kitchen until her death 20 years ago, he sometimes whipped up a mean hamburger with gravy on toast or a Sunday meal of linguisa and waffles.