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Betty Vaughan, who waitressed to raise 4 kids, dies at 93

It wasn’t unusual for waitress Betty Vaughan to greet her customers with the instruction, “Move over — my dogs are barking.”

She’d plop in their booths to take meal orders and rest her feet.

Outgoing and sassy, Mrs. Vaughan made good money at the steakhouses where she worked. In addition to serving up wisecracks, customers knew she’d make sure the filets were medium-rare, the coffee was hot, and the drinks were cold.

“People requested her,” said her daughter, Debbie Vaughan. “She loved to laugh and have a good time.”

Mrs. Vaughan’s tips helped her raise her four kids, who ranged in age from 2 to 12 at the time her husband, Patrick, died of a heart attack at 42. She waitressed until she was 74, earning a bad back from hoisting heavy trays.

But her work kept her in shape. “She could touch her toes until she was 75,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Vaughan, 93, died last month at the St. Mary Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 2325 N. Lakewood.

She grew up Betty McAuliff in “Vis,” or Visitation, the Catholic parish that dominated Garfield and Halsted.

With no hot running water in their home during the Depression, “They had to break ice to wash before they went to school,” said Debbie Vaughan. “They would have to melt the ice.” Young Betty patched the soles of her shoes by inserting bits of cardboard.

In sixth grade, she left school to earn money. At one of her first factory jobs, she glued little ribbons on bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon, her family said. Later in life, Betty Vaughan landed a shift at Nabisco, but she couldn’t keep up with the assembly line. Relatives compared it to the classic “I Love Lucy” episode with a pile-up at the chocolate factory. “The cookies were everywhere, so she quit,” said another daughter, Patricia Vaughan.

Once she had a paycheck, Betty Vaughan treated herself to stylish shoes and other adornments. At her funeral, “She was buried with two necklaces and two rhinestone bracelets, because she liked her bling,” Debbie Vaughan said.

She enjoyed outfitting her children, too. At the holidays, she dolled them up in hats, gloves and dresses that fanned out when they sat down.

She met her future husband, “Vis” alum Patrick Vaughan, in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. But her first flirtation with him was at Godfrey’s bar at the Byrne Building, a huge apartment complex at 55th and Halsted some likened to an “Irish ghetto.”

“My dad came home from the Army and he passed out in the booth there, and she thought it would be funny, so she took her red lipstick and put kiss marks all over his cheeks,” Debbie Vaughan said.

People said Betty Vaughan resembled movie stars Hedy Lamarr and Elizabeth Taylor / provided photo
People said Betty Vaughan resembled movie stars Hedy Lamarr and Elizabeth Taylor / provided photo

When he awoke, he wasn’t upset with the dark-haired, red-lipped Betty. ‘People would tell her she looked like Elizabeth Taylor or Hedy Lamarr,” Patricia Vaughan said.

Patrick Vaughan adored his wife. With his job as a stationary engineer, “He was very proud that he could provide for her,” Patricia Vaughan said.

After he died, she waitressed at the Stock Yard Inn, “Where the Steak is Born,” adjacent to the old International Ampitheatre at 42nd and Halsted. Then she moved to the inn’s more exclusive boite, the Sirloin Room.

The job enabled her children to get seats for some of the Ampitheatre’s famed shows, including the Jackson 5, Elton John and the Beatles. Watching the Fab Four, “I was only 9,” said Debbie Vaughan. “It was just screaming. You couldn’t hear anything.”

Mrs. Vaughan waitressed another 20 years, retiring from the Summer West Beefstro near at 102nd and Western.

She is also survived by a son, Tim, and two grandchildren. Another daughter, Maureen, died before her. Services have been held.