A fresh fig milkshake?
If you ever bought one, you likely ordered it at Sebastopol’s hallowed Sequoia Burger — from Betty Miller.
We’re talking 30 to 40 years ago. Miller then was a spunky, divorced mother renowned to Sequoia Burger diners, fellow west county bowlers and to at least one Sebastopol police officer annoyed by her inclination to drive her 1965 Ford Mustang with a novelty transistor radio inside a beer can on the dashboard.
A daughter, Beth Miller of Santa Rosa, recalled they could hardly be out in public without strangers approaching her mom to say, “You’re the lady who makes us the great milkshakes and fries down at Sequoia.”
Betty Miller died June 15 at the age of 82.
Her name was Betty Watts when she grew up in San Francisco and graduated from Presentation High School. She went to work as a waitress, then met and married firefighter Fred Miller and settled for a time in Menlo Park.
When the marriage failed, Betty Miller briefly moved to Kansas before coming to Sebastopol in 1970 to be closer to her parents, Alfred T. and Mildred Watts. Miller took a job at Sequoia Burger, which then and now occupies a shack on Gravenstein Highway South.
“She loved it,” her daughter said.
Part of the fun was taking to work a bag of figs harvested by her dad, who grew fruit on his Sebastopol property despite having lost his legs in combat.
“She would make fresh fig milkshakes; they were known for her milkshakes,” Beth Miller said. “I think she even tried to make an apple milkshake, and it wasn’t that great.”
Charles Kumar, who has owned the neighboring Sequoia Mini-Mart since 1987 and purchased Sequoia Burger nine years ago, remembers Miller.
“She was always cheerful and joking,” Kumar said, then added, “Sometimes I guess she was not joking.”
Regardless, he said, “She was a great person.”
After about a decade at Sequoia Burger, Betty Miller switched to in-home care for ailing people.
For years, she was a regular at Sebastopol’s former L&L Lanes bowling alley. She also was an avid fan of the Bay Area’s main professional sports teams: the Warriors, Giants, A’s, 49ers and Raiders.
She didn’t take favorites. When the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 disrupted the third game of the World Series between the A’s and Giants at Candlestick Park, Miller was there at the park, dressed half in Oakland green-and-gold and half in San Francisco orange-and-black.
She also adored her red Mustang. She owned a collection of battery-powered radios housed in beverage cans, and the devil in her sometimes prompted her to set a beer-can radio on the dash before setting out in her sporty Ford.
Her daughter remembered her mom and the can causing former Sebastopol police officer Tim Sides fits. Radio or no, the cop told her to stop driving with the thing on the dashboard.
So Betty Miller switched, placing on the dash a radio in a Pepsi can. Officer Sides, her daughter recalled, “would drive by and look at it.”
In recent years, the Mustang sat idled and Miller enjoyed most spending time with her five grandchildren. A series of small strokes preceded her death at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital.