‘Best Dad Ever’: New Canaan’s Arthur Bettauer Turning 100

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By the time his twin daughters were born, New York City native Arthur Bettauer had lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II and launched a long accountancy career with Price Waterhouse.

Arthur Bettauer served with the U.S. Army 777th Field Artillery Battalion during World War II. Contributed

He was 42 and it was the early-1960s—considered old at the time to have children.

One daughter, Karen Harris, recalled on a recent afternoon, “He always said he started to eat healthy then, because he knew he was going to have to live a long time.”

He has.

Next week, Bettauer will turn 100 years old—a milestone that he’ll celebrate in the northern New Canaan home that he and his young family moved into in 1972, but without them, as per COVID-19-related health restrictions. 

“I feel a little heartbroken because it’s not the 100th birthday party we wanted to have,” said Harris, who graduated from New Canaan High School in 1980 with her sister, Nicole Bettauer. “Fortunately, his neighbors said they would do a car parade and honk their horns.”

Arthur Bettauer. Contributed

They’ll be celebrating a singular life of learning, determination, humility and service.

Born May 2, 1920 to a German father who’d come to the United States prior to World War I and would bring over many Jewish relatives from Europe before World War II, Bettauer lived his entire life in New York City prior to moving to New Canaan, Harris said. A gifted storyteller, Bettauer grew up in Washington Heights (he attended high school in Queens) and would tell his daughters about using a dime to take a train to school during the Depression, then spending five cents for lunch and using a second dime to get back home.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the School of Business at City College of New York in 1939, worked as a junior accountant, joined the U.S. Army, married and—after the girls were born (“best dad ever,” Harris said)—the family lived on the Upper East Side. He would go on to earn a MBA in management from the New York University Stern School of Business. (Bettauer and his wife divorced 40 years ago and remain close.)

Nicole Bettauer with her father, Arthur Bettauer. Contributed

“Me and my sister used to share a bedroom and fight with each other, and we decided an apartment was too small and my father said, ‘If we are going to move, I will look all over,’ and somehow we moved to New Canaan,” she recalled. 

There, he dug a vegetable garden and became deeply involved in the community. He volunteered on the Board of Finance and as treasurer for the New Canaan Nature Center Board of Directors among other directorships, both locally and in New York City, including with the Metropolitan Opera Club, Lenox Hill Hospital, Citizens Budget Commission and Better Bureau of Metropolitan New York.

Nicole Bettauer said she interviewed her dad at 90, and “one of the favorite things he told me was that he’d always sought to lead a ‘life of interest.’ ”

“Not a good life, happy life or successful life, necessarily, but one of interest,” she said in an email. “Which, to my mind, makes such sense—because, in embracing curiosity, one can always find interest, even in difficulty. This has led my dad to such a good, happy and successful life—one of care, concern and connection with others, community, family, friends, the times he finds himself in, and the world at-large.”

Harris said that her dad’s U.S. Army experience “really shaped him in many ways.”

Bettauer underwent basic combat training at Camp Jackson in South Carolina, attended Officers Candidate School at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. Assigned to the 777th Field Artillery Battalion, he entered combat in Holland, Belgium and Germany, as a forward and air observer with 98 air combat missions. Bettauer was awarded two Air Medals as well as one oak leaf cluster, and was promoted to first lieutenant. After the war’s combat phase, he joined the military government in Germany and was promoted to captain. 

Arthur Bettauer and his daughter, Karen Harris. Contributed

He’s a resilient man who values order and practices self-discipline, Harris said. 

Bettauer has two caregivers (and attentive neighbors), though he’s pushed back against having full-time help at home and decided he won’t wear a device to alert anyone in the event of a fall “because he says he’s not old enough yet,” Harris said. He had a knee replacement at age 88, another at 89, and at 92, told that he had six months to live, underwent an experimental heart valve replacement.

“He’s a miracle of modern medicine,” Harris said. She added, “I think he’s just very determined and stubborn, because to actually recover from this [surgery] is so hard, you have to be a fighter.”

Arthur Bettauer in New York. Contributed

Though Bettauer stopped driving the same year as the heart valve replacement, he remains largely independent. He’d taught himself after retiring how to use a PC and joined a software user group and is active on Facebook. (After retiring as a partner with Price Waterhouse, he joined an international nonprofit economic development organization that has taken him as far away as Kenya, Poland, Egypt and Uzbekistan.)

These days, Harris said, her dad likes to go out to dinner when she visits from her New York City home (Nicole lives in California)—especially to the Roger Sherman Inn.

With the COVID-19 restrictions, Harris said she hasn’t seen her dad since early-March—the longest stretch in about 10 years—and that she’s never been apart from him on his birthday. The family intends to hold a live group chat through the Zoom videoconferencing app, she said.

“I am just so appreciative that we have had him for so long,” Harris said. “And he’s such a wonderful man… I am just so happy to still have him alive, my sister and I are incredibly close to him.”

She added, “We are still happy that he is making it to 100. He is not in any pain, he is doing well and we are hoping that this will be over and we can have a belated birthday party.”

14 thoughts on “‘Best Dad Ever’: New Canaan’s Arthur Bettauer Turning 100

  1. What a nice article about a very nice man. He was one of the reasons we moved to New Canaan in 1977. Tony spent the earlier part of his New York career working for Art in the New York office. We too loved New Canaan and all it has to offer. Happy Birthday Art. Mallen and Tony Komlyn

  2. Mr. Bettauer is living an interesting life still. And what an example for all of us to keep ourselves “interested” and healthy. I would appreciate him telling the story of his war-time experiences. I hope his devoted daughters share his 100th birthday with us. Thank you for this inspiring story. I had the privilege some years ago of meeting him with my husband at a Senior Men’s Club meeting. Charming gentleman!

    • Arthur Bettauer is one of New Canaan’s living treasures. I salute his extraordinary heart and mind: A man for all seasons with two wonderful daughters. Happy Birthday, Art.

  3. A real gentleman, loved and respected by all. It was a pleasure knowing him and, even more, working for him.

    Art: Be well, stay safe and may you keep on going strong

  4. Thanks to neighbor, Lisa Hill, for sending this wonderful, interesting article about Art Bettauer to me in Florida! In 1979 Vince and Marion Berry were transferred from Pittsburgh, to the NYC office. We asked Mallen and Tony where we should look for a home. They recommended New Canaan and we fell in love with the town! Art Bettauer very kindly welcomed us!

    A very happy, happy 100th birthday to Art Bettauer!
    Marion Berry

  5. Happy Birthday! Fond memories of our time at 60 Broad St. You always had time for a social word. I appreciated that. Stay well, live long. Kind regards Ed Cichurski

  6. Frohlicher Geburtstag Arthur Bettauer! Many thanks for your dedicated support of international development as well as the birdlife and land conservation of New Canaan. Such a wonderful odyssey of resilience.
    Chris Schipper

  7. Thank you so much Mike, New Canaanite, friends and readers for sharing in my Dad’s life-story. One of my favorite things about Art is his self-deprecating sense of humor. I’m sure he’ll have a funny story to tell me about all this attention and love in response. So very appreciated, he is and you are 💚

  8. Dear Art
    I have wonderful memories of you welcoming me to our NY practice in 1968 and to Host.What an experience!Do you and your then little girls remember being with us at our NJ beach club about 1970.
    You are often in my thoughts.
    Bill Westerfield

  9. What can one say about a man as versatile as Art. He is a man for all seasons. A man full of wisdom, wit and humor. What has impressed me most about Art is his uncomplaining nature, which he attributes to his days in the U.S. Army. But I think it is far more than that. I believe it is his timbre that he has carried all through his life and friendship with people. For years, Bob Layton, Rudy Weber, Art and I met almost every Friday for lunch after our club meetings, and even as couple of friends have departed Art and I exchanged visits at our home and had heartful chats on many topics under the Sun. As it says in the Ecclesiastes, “Forsake not an old friend, for a new one does not compare.” Indeed, Art is a rare human being. Hope our friendship remains unimpaired as we grow older…Happy one hundredth birthday, Art. – Shashi

  10. Dear Art,
    Of course, your longevity has many roots in your life, most particularly giving you plenty of time so that you can continue to tell all those wonderful stories, from the emergency appendectomy, to your fine adventures as an anywhere-in-the-world volunteer. You and I, plus Lou and BettyJane, have the Dalton School to thank for our friendship, and the pleasures that we shared. Many good wishes and much affection,
    Liz Lauer

  11. Dear Art,
    It was a treat to read this story and to learn about your life’s trajectory in a way that I hadn’t known … although I have known you since our families started spending time together almost 50 years ago!
    I am sure that you are weathering this situation with fortitude and grace.
    Sending you wishes for a beautiful Spring and a happy 100th year!
    Love, Kate

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