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In Memoriam: Bettie Portwood

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Bettie Portwood died on Oct. 21, at age 93. Portwood was an active association member who holds the distinction of being the first and only woman to serve as president of the Ohio Pest Management Association.

Brad Harbison | October 25, 2011

AKRON, Ohio — Bettie Portwood, who along with husband Norman, was a longtime owner of Akron, Ohio-based TNT Exterminating, died on Friday. She was 93. In addition to her involvement with TNT Exterminating, Portwood was an active association member who holds the distinction of being the first and only woman to serve as president of the Ohio Pest Management Association.

TNT Exterminating was founded in Akron in 1935 by Harold Portwood , who entered the profession by accident. Harold was in charge of ridding his father-in-law’s property of rodents and he realized the potential for a business. In August, 1936, the company was reorganized into a corporation with Mr. Portwood as president and his oldest son, Norman served as vice president and general manager of the company.

In 1962 Bettie and Norman Portwood met with Akron City Health officials with the goal of forming a local professional pest control association. The Summit County Pest Control Association was born with 18 members including, including Dick Schroeder of Southern Mill Creek Products. Bettie served as the Summit County Pest Control Association’s first secretary/treasurer. She served the Summit County Pest Control Association faithfully in this capacity for 44 years. In 1973, she served as first and only woman president of the Ohio Pest Management Association. It’s for these contributions that PMPs such as Rich Kozlovich, owner of Pest Management Inc., Mentor on the Lake, Ohio, referred to Bettie as "Ohio's First Lady of Pest Control.”

“Her impact on people in the pest control industry can’t be overstated,” said Kozlovich. “Over the years people would ask me why I attended the Summit Country meeting since I did so little work in Summit County and lived so far from Akron, where our association meetings are held. I always said the same thing. I just couldn’t say no to Bettie. Because of her unending warmth and sense humor Bettie was easy to love and impossible to forget.”

Bettie and Norman Portwood owned TNT Exterminating until 1988, when they sold TNT Exterminating to Gerry and Janet Grace. The Grace’s ran TNT for seven years before selling the business to son Mike Grace, the company’s current owner, in 1995.

“What allowed my parents to follow through with the acquisition was the knowledge that Norm and Bettie had such integrity,” said Mike Grace. “There was never a concern that it was a questionable venture. They were first class people — just very humble and very gracious.”

Bettie was survived by daughter, Jean Davis Almquist and grandsons, Liam and Colm Davis, all of Evanston, Ill., two nieces, and one nephew.

Additional information for this story provided by Rich Kozlovich.

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