Betsy Ann Pheil

August 3, 1941December 29, 2020

Pheil, Betsy Ann 79, was born August 3, 1941 in St. Petersburg, FL to Harvey William Pheil and Winifred Stoner Walker. Betsy died peacefully December 29, 2020 in her Gulfport home after fighting a long battle with cancer. The history of the Pheil family in the local community goes as far back as the early 1880’s with the Pheil Hotel and Theater on 4th Street and Central Avenue. Betsy’s grandfather, Abram C. Pheil, former mayor of St. Petersburg, was the first passenger of the 1914 first flight of the first commercial airline (Benoist) in history that traveled the bay from St. Petersburg to Tampa. Betsy and her twin brother Bill were the first cesarean born twins at Mound Park Hospital (now Bayfront Hospital). Betsy was a graduate of Northeast High School. She made her debut in 1961 and was a member of the 1962 Sun Goddess Court. She worked at the St. Petersburg Chapter of the American Red cross and was a co-owner of the Don CeSar gift shop when it first opened. Growing up in St. Petersburg, bicycling around St. Pete Beach and later tooling around town with her best friends in her yellow ’53 Chevy named “Myrtle Belle,” Betsy was a true child of sand and sun. Her smile and laugh usually turned a good time into a fabulous time, and she brought happiness to everyone who knew her. Betsy cherished the local sports teams and rarely missed a game played by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rays or Lightning. She was extremely proud of the accomplishments of her family and often made sure they knew it. Betsy was a champion of the underdog and always stood for justice. Her kindness and generosity were unmatched, and she had a unique way of making everyone feel special. She had a precious southern charm and would greet people with terms of endearment such as “Bless you” or “Sweet Pea.” Betsy also loved history, and her talent in museum display and exhibition kept her in close contact with the local community. She volunteered many hours at the St. Petersburg Museum of History where she was a member of the Board of Trustees, as well as other Florida history museums, while working with G&A Museum Exhibition and Consultation services. She also was a board member of the Friends of Fort De Soto, Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, Junior League of St. Petersburg, Friends of Egmont Key Alliance, and Professional Addiction Services (P.C.A.S.). Betsy also served on sailboat race committees for Pass-a-Grille and Treasure Island Yacht Clubs. All those who loved her will never forget her passion for her community, her willingness to listen, and her enduring friendships. She is survived by her twin brother Bill Pheil, niece Jennifer Otero (Lou Otero) of Timonium, MD, nephew Walker Pheil of Gainesville, cousins Tommy Pheil Sr., Tommy Pheil II. (Regina Pheil), Scott Pheil (Joanna Pheil) of St. Petersburg, FL and cousins Peter Pheil (Wendy Pheil) of Ruby, SC and David Pheil (Carlyn Pheil) of Ashville, NC. A celebration of Betsy’s life will be held online with Zoom later. In lieu of flowers, please donate to Rescue Gifts: or Give Now to Help Change Lives:


Betsy Ann Pheil

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Ray Plato

January 18, 2021

Our community has lost a jewel,my family came here in the mid 40s,my father was a coach and teacher and who didn't know about Abe and the family.I attended SPHS with Tommy.She will be.missed.May she rest in peace.

Rebecca Hagen

January 15, 2021

Betsy was one of the first friends I made when I moved from Minnesota to Florida in 1997. She, Alice Phillips and I worked closely together during my time as Collections Curator for the St. Petersburg Museum of History. She was kind and welcoming, and had a wonderful sense of humor. Having her in my life was like having a surrogate Auntie, when all my blood relatives were on the other side of the country. I will miss her, her love of cats, her love of history and of course, her friendship.

Pattie Childs Kealy

January 11, 2021

Betsy and I were lifelong friends. Our families were close friends, and my father was a pall bearer in her father's funeral. We were at Euclid School, Mirror Lake Junior High School, and St. Peter's Episcopal Church (choir and youth groups) together. I was a gleeful participant with our group of friends in countless adventures in "Myrtle Belle." Since I moved away from St. Petersburg permanently in 1967 (she drove with me on my voyage to Vancouver, my new home), we have never been out of touch and we've gotten together for frequent visits. Betsy was passionate about many things, not the least being Big Cat Rescue in Tampa. She introduced me to BCR ten years ago, and I'll be making a donation to them in her memory. I love you Betsy and I miss you so much!

Cindy Smith

December 31, 2020

Betsy was my very best friend on social media and I was always hoping to spend time with her in person. I will always treasure her memories and her love.
She made this world a better place, especially for me. Our chats are my treasures now.
I will miss her every day.
She was filled with compassion and love. She'd help me in so many aspects.
Betsy was a wonderful lady and the best friend anyone could ever ask for.
My heart absolutely broke when she told me her therapy didn't work , and how things were going.
Gosh how I will miss her. I'm honored she was my friend. I'm Thankful she knew how much I loved her.... and always will.


December 30, 2020

My deepest condolences for the loss of your cousin Betsy. She was a wonderful woman with a huge, kind heart & a terrific sense of humor! We became great friends through Facebook. Throughout the years we shared laughter, the same interests & groups. I always had the best time chatting with Betsy. She will forever have a special place in my heart.

Philip Graham

December 30, 2020

As a fifth generation family member of St. Petersburg, I share with so many others an affection for our City's unique and colorful history. The Pheil family has played a significant role through the decades in shaping the events and character of St. Petersburg's legacy that can still be felt today. Betsy Ann Pheil tirelessly spread her appreciation of that legacy, positively influencing an ever-changing City that remains steadfast in its remembrance of its past. I wish to convey my most sincere gratitude to her and the surviving Pheil family members for their contributions to our community, and particularly for significant participation in the realization of the World's First Airline Monument located at its historic site in downtown St. Petersburg.
Philip H. Graham, IV, Landscape Architect
First Airline Monument Project

Alan Kahle

December 30, 2020

My deepest condolences to your family during this dark time. Please know that I will keep your family in my prayers and thoughts.

Will Michaels

December 30, 2020

I am so sorry to hear of Betsy's passing. Betsy and I worked closely together when I was Executive Director of the Museum of History. She played a key part in updating the Museum’s signature St. Petersburg Exhibit in 2004. Her passion particularly was for the Museum’s artifact collection, and she was a strong advocate of telling history through historic objects, making history real and more understandable. She also was a champion of her grandfather’s legacy to St. Petersburg, which went far beyond his participation in the First Airline as notable as that was. Betsy was a generous benefactor of the new World's First Airline Monument and followed its creation closely, sharing new family stories about her grandfather as work progressed. Happily she was able to participate in the Monument Plaza Groundbreaking Ceremony in 2019. Betsy very much loved her city, and St. Petersburg is all the richer for her. Personally, she was a pleasure to work with and a delight to know. She will be greatly missed.
Will Michaels, President
Flight 2014, Inc.
First Airline Monument Project