Legendary Tacoma school volunteer Betty Drost remembered fondly

Tacoma News TribuneMarch 10, 2014 

Tacoma Public Schools has lost one of its biggest supporters with the death of Betty Drost.

The former school board member graduated from Lincoln High School in 1938, and her loyalty to her alma mater -- as well as the larger school district -- only grew stronger as she grew older. Lincoln’s auditorium is named in her honor.

Drost died March 4 at age 93.

She worked for 28 years on campaigns to get school levies and bond measures passed. Even as health issues limited her ability to campaign publicly in recent years, Drost’s commitment remained strong.

“Even though she could hardly walk, she would come and give support and ask the public to vote for our schools,” said Willie Stewart Sr., former Lincoln principal, district administrator and school board member.

“Her energy level was so amazing.”

Stewart met Drost in 1962 when she was involved with the opening of Mount Tahoma High School and the establishment of its Parent Teacher Association. Drost served two terms on the school board, holding the position of president three times.

Drost remained committed to seeing Lincoln students succeed long after she left the school. She was one of the first people to help form the school’s scholarship organization, Stewart said.

“She wanted to make sure there was a legacy left for (students) to have financial resources to continue their secondary education,” Stewart said.

Drost campaigned endlessly to see the passage of levy and bond measures districtwide.

“She always figured if someone voted ‘no,’ they just didn’t know, they didn’t have all the information,” said Patti Holmgren, former communications director for the district.

Holmgren was at the district after Drost left but worked closely with her on campaigns.
“She was a political strategist in the finest way,” Holmgren said, explaining how Drost used colored pencils to code how people voted, precinct by precinct.

Her maps would show the areas where volunteers should concentrate, Holmgren said.

“She believed that all kids deserved a great education,” she said. “She was one of those stalwarts that really never did burn out. It really was absolutely amazing.”

Current school board member Debbie Winskill overlapped with Drost her last two years on the board, ending in 1991. Drost was respected by everyone in the community, Winskill said, and made volunteering a full-time job.

“She was active as a volunteer districtwide, not just with her children’s schools,” she said. “She was very gracious, always, with everybody.”

South Tacoma resident Craig Miller grew up three blocks from the Drost household. He attended school with Drost’s daughters and his mother served on the Arlington Elementary School PTA with Drost.

To raise money for the school, Drost started a spaghetti dinner that became a long-standing neighborhood event.

Through the years, Miller said it seemed Drost kept an eye on Arlington, making sure it wasn’t overlooked. A new building is planned for the campus, and Miller has asked the school board to consider renaming it after Drost.

“Her mission really and truly was to see schools get better for kids,” Miller said. “Why not do this for a lady who has done so much for the schools?”

Drost is survived by daughters Pamela Smith, Penny Drost and Patricia McClements, three grandsons and numerous nieces and nephews.

Brynn Grimley: 253-597-8467 brynn.grimley@thenewstribune.com

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