Omaha television pioneer Bettie Tolson was known for her love of hats. Her family and friends will be wearing hats when they say goodbye at her memorial service Thursday.
Tolson, 90, died Tuesday at Immanuel Fontenelle Home of complications from a Christmas Day heart attack, said daughter Nikki Heim of Omaha and Clearwater, Fla.
Tolson's memorial service will be at 11 a.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 5410 Corby St.
She had her own show, "Your TV Home," throughout the 1950s on KMTV, her family said. The show featured cooking and interviews with national and Omaha celebrities.
Tolson's family has photos of her with entertainers Broderick Crawford, Thelma Ritter, Doris Day and Dinah Shore - all guests on Tolson's show.
"She was good friends with Johnny Carson and that group," Heim said. "That was back in the early days when all the pioneers in early TV in Omaha hung around together."
When KMTV had a 25th anniversary show at the Orpheum Theater, Heim said, Johnny Carson asked: "Bettie, are you still alive?"
For a while, Tolson also had an Omaha-based entertainment booking agency called National Orchestra Service. It booked orchestras and many other acts, including a budding Omaha musician.
"Johnny Ray Gomez cut his first record in our living room in Omaha" in the late 1950s, Heim said.
Tolson also was Miss Peter Pan Peanut Butter (dressed in green and with a green hat) in the early 1950s in Omaha and was the first "Miss Color TV" selected in New York City, her family said.
Tolson, whose friends called her Betty Boop, loved to wear Betty Boop-inspired things, her daughter said.
"She was a hoot," Heim said. "She had a wonderful life."
Bettie Helmle Tolson grew up in Omaha and graduated from Benson High School in 1939, the same year she married.
"She went to work at the (Martin) Bomber plant" near Bellevue during World War II and was a home party lady for Peggy Newton Cosmetics in the 1940s, Heim said.
After taking time off to raise a family, Tolson sold cosmetics at J.C. Penney at the Westroads.
Well into her 80s, Tolson ushered at the College World Series, Civic Auditorium, Omaha Community Playhouse, Orpheum Theater and Qwest Center Omaha. She also volunteered at Methodist Hospital.
At the CWS, "The guys from Texas - Hook 'em Horns - adopted her like you wouldn't believe," Heim said.
"She just made them feel welcome to Omaha."
Tolson was preceded in death by her husband of 46 years, Blair Tolson.
Besides Heim, other survivors include daughters Judy Iakisch of Omaha and Clearwater, and Peggy Mitchell of Clearwater; 12 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.