Betty Moul Tisdale is recognized internationally for her humanitarian work on behalf of children. A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mrs. Tisdale was working for U.S. Steel Corporation in New York City when she met Dr. Tom Dooley, renowned for his compassionate care of the sick and homeless in Southeast Asia. Inspired by Dr. Dooley's work, and after his death of cancer at the age of 34, Mrs. Tisdale helped maintain his medical clinics in Laos, Thailand as well as the An Lac Orphanage in Saigon, South Vietnam. She also continued the care of Tibetans in India. In 1961 she made the first of 28 trips to Southeast Asia.
As the war in Vietnam escalated, she continued her annual trips to work at the orphanage, teaching English and assisting in the care of 400 children and babies. At home in the United States, Mrs. Tisdale established An Lac Orphanage, Inc. with Norman Cousins as Honorary Chairman. An Lac Orphanage, Inc. was a fund raising organization. She worked tirelessly to raise money and supplies through lectures, articles, television and radio appearances including interviews on NBC's Today Show, as well as articles in Time Magazine, Parade, Atlanta Constitution, Ladies Home Journal, Today's Secretary, Baby Talk and USA Today. She was interviewed in Saigon by ABC News and the New York Daily News.
She also maintained her career, serving as personal secretary to U. S. Senator Jacob K. Javits of New York, from 1963 until 1969. In 1969, she married Col. Patrick D. Tisdale, M.D. a widower with five sons ages 5-12, whom she met while he was the Medical Bn. Commander of the First Infantry Division at Bien Hoa, Vietnam. Within two years, the Tisdales adopted 5 Vietnamese girls from An Lac and continued to raise funds for An Lac from their new home base in Ft. Benning and Columbus, Georgia.
In April, 1975, when the communists were 12 miles from Saigon, Mrs. Tisdale, along with Ina Balin, the actress and a Board Member of An Lac Orphanage, and Dr. Cao Xuan Anh, who signed the papers, evacuated 219 orphans from An Lac Orphanage. On April 30, 1975 she was able to get Mme Vu Thi Ngai, the Directress of An Lac, and her two assistants out of Saigon. They lived with the Tisdales in their home in Columbus, Georgia. Mme Ngai died in her new home in 1978. The story of her dramatic rescue of the children has been told in a CBS television movie, The Children of An Lac, starring Shirley Jones as Betty Tisdale and Ina Balin, as herself.
The Vietnam government would not allow Betty to evacuate any children over the age of ten. All 219 children were adopted within one month through the Tressler Adoption Agency in York, Pennsylvania.
In 1995, 20 years later, she returned with her youngest daughter, Kim Lan, to find the children she had to leave behind. They found 60 of them for a joyous reunion. The children, now adults, sang "Jingle Bells”, “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Row Row Row your Boat” to show they had not forgotten their Betty.
In the summer of 2000, Betty Tisdale founded HALO, Helping and Loving Orphans. This organization is dedicated to improving the lives of children in developing countries through relief efforts so that wherever there is a child in need, HALO will be there as a lifeline to a better life.
Betty Tisdale has been awarded numerous honors including the Presidential Commendation in recognition of exceptional service to others, the Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution, and a special award by the government of South Vietnam for humanitarianism. She has received the International Service of Mankind Award by the Sertoma Club. In 1999, the Mayor of Seattle proclaimed September 15 as Betty Tisdale Day. In 2003, she received the Caring Award in Washington, DC.
She has served on several boards including Tom Dooley Memorial Heritage, Inc. of New York, the Columbus, Georgia Symphony, and Springer Theater. She helped to promote a home for those with intellectual disabilities in Columbus, and has worked as a school, hospital and church volunteer.
In 1982 the Tisdales moved to Seattle where she was the Director of the Pacific Institute Alumni Association and Administrative Assistant to the chairman until 1995. She has been a Board Member of the World Affairs Council, The Variety Club (a children's charity) and Gift of Love (an agency that works for adoption of Chinese and Rwandan children), the Greater Seattle Vietnam Association, the Somewhere in the World Foundation, Americans for Aid and Adoption and the US Navy League.
She is a member of the Tibetan Association of Washington and the Kosovo Humanitarian Aid Organization, and works with Americans for International Aid in their work. Currently, HALO is involved in helping five orphanages in Vietnam, an orphanage for disabled children in Bogota, Colombia, and the Uruapan Orphanage in Mexico, as well as in the Uruapan PARSA Physical Therapy Clinic, the Aschiana School.
In 1999 and 2000, Betty appeared on NBC Dateline and was featured in Life Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul (1st Edition), Give Joy to My Youth, by Teresa Gallagher, A Christmas Filled with Miracles, and on the Angel Network.