Betty Jo Pitts (Bayless), 89, a life-long Arizonan and educator, died Wednesday in Cottonwood. Jo, as she was known to family and friends, was born in Somerton, Arizona on December 15, 1924 to Ben and Ollie Bayless, who owned a cattle ranch where they raised seven children. She graduated from Yuma High School in 1942 and received an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University and a graduate degree in education from Northern Arizona University. Jo was married for 44 years to Martin Wayne Pitts, better known as "Rip" and even better known as an All-American fullback for ASU. He is enshrined in the university's football hall of fame. Jo and Rip started Wilderness Ranch Camp in Lakeside, Arizona, an eight-week summer camp for children, which they owned and operated in the 1960s. Campers started the season with a week-long trial ride from Kohl's Ranch near Payson to the ranch at Lakeside. Rip Pitts died in 1990. Jo taught grade school in the Phoenix Alhambra School District and supervised the special education needs of the Glendale district as well. She retired from the State Department of Education. She was an active member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary society for women educators. An educator by training, she was a devoted wife, mother and friend. That devotion also extended to children in need. The couple also served as unofficial foster parents for dozens of children who had lost their way.
Jo is survived by two children, Mike (Kathie) of Chino Valley and Kay Hall of Cotopaxi, Colorado; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. She is also survived by a sister, Patricia Browning of Redlands, California.
A Service to Celebrate her Life will be at 10:00 a.m. on Monday, June 30, 2014 at Cottonwood Village, 201 E. Mingus Ave. in Cottonwood, AZ; a retirement facility where Jo lived for the past several years.