2016 Community Spirit Award
For transforming the lives of countless children and their families in El Paso over the past six decades, for her efforts to save the historic Plaza Theatre from becoming a parking lot, and for a lifetime of improving El Paso, Betty Moor MacGuire was recognized as the 2016 Community Spirit Award honoree.
Speaking at the El Pasoan of the Year and Community Spirit Award luncheon on February 8, MacGuire said the children’s home has enriched her life and has been a wonderful experience.
“Also, I’d like to remember (my husband) John MacGuire for creating the War Eagles Air Museum. He loved airplanes and history about World War II and Korea,” MacGuire said. “I want to say thanks to my courageous family. All the family has given me a lot of love and encouragement.”
MacGuire, 93, has a remarkable life story. She is the force behind the Lee & Beulah Moor Children’s Home. Since it opened 58 years ago, almost 30,000 children in crisis have found a safe place with the nonprofit.
“Since the turn of the last century this pioneer family has led our community with its business leadership, civic leadership and philanthropic leadership,” said Rick Francis, chairman and CEO of WestStar Bank. “I cannot think of another family whose impact to our region has been greater and continues to this day.”
Lee and Beulah Moor, who came to Alamogordo in the 1890s to ranch, adopted MacGuire as an infant. The family was poor, and Lee Moor made the 700-mile journey alone on horseback. They eventually moved to El Paso.
“What they built over the next 51 years was a business empire unlike any El Paso or this region had ever seen,” Francis said.
Lee became one of the most successful builders, farmers, ranchers, financiers and philanthropists in the Southwest. He is best known as a founding member of Southern Union Gas, known today as Texas Gas Service.
When Betty was a young woman, she married John MacGuire, sneaking out of the house to elope with him in 1943. Their marriage lasted 58 happy years, until he died in 2001. “Together they have an amazing love story filled with amazing accomplishments,” Francis said.
In 1986, MacGuire joined with Janice Windle, then president of the El Paso Community Foundation, to save the Plaza Theatre.
“She has inspired other people to support the foundation as a way to demonstrate leadership and confidence in the community where we live,” Windle said. “I particularly wanted to nominate her for this award because she is a role model for people of all ages.”
The Plaza Theatre re-opened in 2007 and is now one of the most popular attractions in El Paso and helped spark the revitalization of Downtown.
“You are never too old,” Windle said. “She is full of energy and good ideas.”
MacGuire has served on the board of the Lee & Beulah Moor Children’s Home in central El Paso for its entire 58-year history. Established by a trust founded by her father, it is El Paso’s only children’s home and provides a nurturing place for children in crisis.
“She is a living legacy of what encompasses community spirit,” said Renee Tanner, CEO of the children’s home. “She has been for El Paso what no one else has been, and we love her and are proud of her.”
MacGuire’s daughter, Carol Johnson, serves on the board of the children’s home and operates a charitable foundation with her husband.
“Being honored means a lot to her, and it means a lot to our family,” Johnson said. “We’re real proud of her.”
In 1989, MacGuire and her husband established the War Eagles Air Museum in nearby Santa Teresa, New Mexico, to share their love of aviation and collection of vintage planes with the community. The nonprofit museum attracts visitors from around the world.
When MacGuire flies she no longer sits in the pilot’s seat but remains a part of the crew, often in the co-pilot’s seat, said pilot Dan Taylor.
“She and her husband both owned an airplane before they owned a car,” Taylor said. “Their passion for aviation has been lifelong.”