September 24, 2007 by

Betty Matas

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Categories: Extraordinary People

The final year of Betty Matas’ life was full of adventure.
Last April, she and her husband Bob decided to retire to the desert. To make the 2,500-mile trip from Queens, N.Y., to Sedona, Ariz., the couple didn’t rent a car or take a train. Instead, Betty and Bob hailed a yellow taxi cab.
The Matases were life-long New Yorkers, the kind who never learned how to drive and relied entirely on public transportation. Since flying would have been difficult for their cats, Pretty Face and Cleopatra, the pair decided to hire cabbie Douglas Guldeniz to take them on a road trip across 10 states.
The Brooklyn hack, who had driven the Matases on a shopping trip three months earlier, was happy to get out of the city for a change. At the standard rate, the six-day trip would have cost about $5,000 each way, but Guldeniz only asked for a flat fare of $3,000, plus gas, meals and lodging.
When the trio left New York City on April 3, their story had already been featured in newspapers across the country. The Daily News even had a reporter follow Guldeniz’s cab and blog about the journey.
Guldeniz drove for about 10 hours a day, following a U-Haul truck carrying the couple’s possessions. At each stop, Betty took the time to stretch her legs and make conversation with the many waitresses, truckers and reporters she encountered. “Every state that we hit, people would say ‘Are you the ones?’ and we would say ‘Yes, we are the ones,'” Bob said.
The cross-country trek in the 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid SUV was said to be the longest taxi ride in New York history.
Upon their arrival in Sedona, the trio were met by a welcoming committee and a crowd of well-wishers. Sedona Mayor Pud Colquitt gave Betty and Bob a bag of souvenirs, and their real estate agent presented them with the keys to their new retirement home.
Betty spent 38 years working as an executive secretary to the president of Klemptner Advertising. Although she missed New York, she had no regrets about moving to Arizona.
Betty died on Aug. 20 of pneumonia and a heart attack. She was 75.

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