Passed through Austin and passed on a legacy; Mother of Julia Roberts lived in and graduated from Austin

Betty Lou Bredemus, back row third from left, takes part in play rehearsals. Photos from Austin yearbook, 1952

Betty Lou Bredemus, back row third from left, takes part in play rehearsals. Photos from Austin yearbook, 1952

Many recognize the famous actress Julia Roberts, but what many may not know is her mother, Betty Lou Bredemus, lived and graduated high school in Austin.

Bredemus, 80 passed away on Feb. 19 in Los Angeles, according to People Magazine. The former acting-school teacher had been battling lung cancer.

Bredemus was a 1952 Austin High School graduate. The 1952 yearbook lists choir, drama and the school newspaper — the Sentinel — as Bredemus’ hobbies her senior year.

LaVonne Zrucky, a year below Bredemus in school, was in her junior year when her future husband, Richard Zrucky, took Bredemus to the senior prom.

“As I know how the story goes, she helped Dick write a paper for one of their classes,” LaVonne said. “And in return he said he would take her to the prom, and they did, they went to the prom together.”

Because the age difference, LaVonne did not know Bredemus personally.

Richard, who suffers with memory loss due to health problems, was not able to speak about the friendship.

LaVonne said Richard and Bredemus were just friends, as far as she knew.

“I don’t know that there was ever anything between the two of them,” she said. “Right soon after that we started dating, he and I.”

According to the Julia Roberts biography, “Julia: Her Life” by James Spada, Bredemus moved to Austin two separate times with her family, as her father’s career as a salesman forced the family to relocate 12 times in search of work. Bredemus attended Austin High School in ninth grade, attended 10th and 11th grade sin Excelsior, Minnesota, and returned to Austin for 12th grade before graduating from Austin High School in 1952.

The biography describes Austin as a “one-horse town one hundred miles south of Minneapolis, whose main claim to fame was the Hormel meat company, bringing it the nickname ‘SPAMTown.’”

Betty Lou Bredemus

Betty Lou Bredemus

The book goes on to quote a former classmate and the Sentinel editor, Barbara Gaddis, who remembered Bredemus as “a pretty, blue-eyed, long-haired girl, a little on the short side and a little on the chunky side. She was attractive with beautiful eyes. Her eyes and her smile are so much like Julia’s.”

According to the biography, Bredemus performed in the Austin drama group’s productions of “You Can’t Take It with You” by Kaufman and Hart, and “A Murder Has Been Arranged” by Emlyn Williams.

After graduation, Bredemus joined a stock company in northern Minnesota and appeared in a number of plays. That September, she returned to Austin and went to Austin Junior College, with a major in dramatic arts. She left later that year after her father became ill and money was tight.

The biography explains Bredemus went into the United States Air Force in 1953, where she moved to a few different bases and eventually ended up at Keesler AFB, where her background in theater brought her to special services, a division of personnel that oversaw entertainment for servicemen. She earned a National Defense Service Medal during her time. She met her future husband, Walter Roberts, while performing in “George Washington Slept Here.” In 1956, Bredemus gave birth to her first son, Eric Anthony. In 1957, after both Bredemus and her husband were out of the military, the family moved to Louisiana. Roberts pursued his dream of getting an education and becoming a writer, and Bredemus helped support the family by working as an office clerk for an insurance company, and then a salesclerk in a chess and game shop in the French Quarter.

The family later moved from New Orleans to Decatur, Georgia. In 1964, Bredemus acted as Bum Bum the Clown on “Bum Bum and His Buddies,” a children’s show on WAII-TV that Roberts directed. The couple later set up a children’s theater with workshops and productions.

In 1967, Bredemus gave birth to Julia. The family went through many struggles, successes and failures after that.

To read more about Bredemus and Julia’s life, look for “Julia: Her Life” by James Spada.

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