Elizabeth Lee Klepper

Born: Sun., Mar. 8, 1936
Died: Fri., Oct. 26, 2018


Memorial Gathering

10:00 AM Fri., Nov. 09, 2018
Location: Vert Auditorium


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Elizabeth Lee (Betty) Klepper
March 8, 1936  -  October 26, 2018

Elizabeth Lee (Betty) Klepper, (82), a retired scientist at the USDA Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center in Pendleton, died at her home on October 26, 2018.

Betty was born March 8, 1936 in Memphis Tennessee to George Madden and Margaret Lee Klepper.  She attended school in Tennessee and graduated as Founder's Medalist from Vanderbilt University in 1958.  After two years on a British Government Marshall Scholarship at Exeter University in Devonshire, England, she taught high school math and science for a year at the Hutchinson School in Memphis, Tennessee.  She then returned to graduate school at Duke University to obtain her M.A. and Ph. D. in botany.

Dr. Klepper held a post-doctoral position at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in Griffith, New South Wales, Australia, at the Division of Irrigation Research from 1966 to 1968.  When she returned to the USA, she taught and did research on plant root systems at Auburn University in Alabama.  Her team's work on growth and water uptake of crop roots gained international recognition and started her life-long interest in how root systems grow and take materials from the soil.  In 1972, she moved to Richland, Washington, to study the movement of minerals, especially radioactive ones, into and through plant tissues at the Battelle Northwest Laboratories.

In 1976, Betty took a position as a Supervisory Plant Physiologist at the USDA Columbia Plateau Conservation Research Center at Pendleton to study effects of tillage, planting machinery design, and crop residue management on cereal seedling vigor and crop water use.  Working with colleagues in Pendleton and with many other scientists nationally, and internationally, she helped develop new ways of evaluating plant development and stress and led a project that defined the patterns of shoot and root system development in wheat.  She coauthored over 200 scientific publications and was Research and Location Leader for the Center from 1984 to her retirement in 1996.

Betty chaired the National Research Personnel Evaluation Committee for the Agricultural Research Service from 1991 to 1995 and served on the Board of Directors of the Agronomic Science Foundation from 1992 to 2000 and again from 2010 to 2013.  She was at the leading edge of women moving into agricultural research in the later half of the 20th Century and achieved several breakthroughs.

She was the first woman in the United States to edit a major agricultural journal (Crop Science), to be elected a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America (1985), and to serve as President of the Crop Science Society of America (1997).  She established the Betty Klepper Endowed Lectureship with the Crop Science Society of America.  The society recognized her impact with its Presidential Award in 2003 and the Monsanto Distinguished Career Award in 2004.  Betty was awarded the Diamond Pioneer Award by Oregon State University in 2010 for her contributions to Oregon agriculture.

After retirement, Betty became active in the Pendleton community.  She served on the Board and numerous committees of the Arts Council of Pendleton, as a Coordinator for the AAUW Mother-Daughter Choices program for sixth-grade girls, on the Umatilla Basin Watershed Council and Umatilla County Groundwater Taskforce, on the coordinating committee for Salmon Walk, and on the Scholarship Committee and Board of the Pendleton Rotary Club.  She is best known for initiating the Stewards of the Umatilla River Environment (S.U.R.E), which worked to clean up the riverside in town and to educate local people about the plants, animals, rocks and history of the Umatilla River.  Her contributions were recognized by Pendleton's First Citizen Award in 2004 and the White Rose Award in Portland in 2005.

She enjoyed traveling, especially on African safaris. And was proud to say that she had seen all 58 of the National Parks in the USA.  She also undertook to visit all 13 of the Presidential Libraries in the U.S.A.  Lifelong hobbies were picking mushrooms and huckleberries, learning about birds, and playing mahjong.  She used to say that she liked people just fine, but she loved cats.

Her parents and her brother, George M. Klepper, Jr. of Memphis, Tennessee, predeceased her.  She leaves two nieces, Karen Erb and Meg Coughman of Memphis and two nephews, Kipper Klepper of Memphis and Jim Klepper of Baltimore.  She will be missed by her long-time friend, Fern Oliver and Fern's daughters, Jody and Joan.

A memorial service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, November 9, 2018 at the Vert Auditorium at 480 SW Dorion Ave., Pendleton, OR  97801 Memorial contributions may be made to the Pendleton Center for the Arts, 214 N. Main St. or through the funeral home, Pendleton Pioneer Chapel, 131 S.E. Byers Ave., Pendleton.  Online condolences may be sent to www.pioneerchapel.com.

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Brigit Farley
   Posted Mon October 29, 2018
Betty was a great citizen of her academic community and of Pendleton. She lived a long and contibutory life in all respects, from her own scientific work through her efforts to promote the beauty and ecological well-being of our town. And she was a life-long learner who sought out new experiences. She did all she could with the life she was given. Rest in peace.

Margie Gutierrez
   Posted Fri November 02, 2018
So sorry to hear about Betty. She was a brilliant woman but so friendly and approachable. Our community has lost one of its great citizens.
Margie Gutierrez

J.R. Cook
   Posted Sat November 03, 2018
My most sincere condolences on Betty’s passing. I will always remember my many days with Betty working on water issues in the Umatilla Basin. She was soft, kind but always up for any task. She was so easy going and easy to talk to but man was she smart!

After our groundwater work I didn’t get to see Betty as much but everytime I did she remembered me and was always full of questions! I’ll miss you Betty and thank you for blessing the life of myself and the many others that you knew or you most undoubtedly positively impacted or benefitted positively in some way. RIP Betty.

Mike Kruse
   Posted Sun November 04, 2018
I had the privilege of working with Betty at CBARC for three years in the computer lab. She along with other co-workers there were true professionals and dedicated to improving the world. I must say that that compassion was thrown out the window during the lunchtime when many of us would pick up the cards and have a spirited game of Hearts.

Barbara,Heidi,and Heather Zeigler Hedricks
   Posted Tue November 06, 2018
Betty was our neighbor next door for 26 years on 45th. You never talked with Betty without learning something new. She was a bright and kind individual who will be greatly missed. She tutored my daughter, Heather, in math when she was struggling. They became life long friends. She knew no stranger and always had that big beautiful Betty smile on her face every time you encountered her! Good byMiss Betty! Rest In Peace!

Kathryn B. Brown
   Posted Fri November 09, 2018
Betty's friendship meant a lot to me. She knew four generations of my family, starting with my grandmother in the 1980s as they worked together for the betterment of Pendleton. I was honored when she recently asked me to take on the organization of Stewards of the Umatilla River Environment's river cleanups. I will always remember her wisdom and kindness.

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