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Wylie Bettinger, 29, founder of Wylie's HoneyBrew, dies

Ashlander Wylie Bettinger, creator-owner of Wylie’s HoneyBrew, died over the weekend from complications of lymphatic cancer and a liver transplant three years ago. He was 29.

A native of Kansas City, Bettinger came to Ashland seven years ago because of its oaks, acorns, clean water and community, said close friend Jeanine Moy of KS Wild. These were the resources he used to start his company and produce a soda with unheated raw honey, herbs and live enzyme cultures.

Stricken with health issues early in life, Bettinger left home at 15, “went traveling, pursuing his own health choices, worked with Woofers (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), lived in New Zealand, worked with ancient trees, was a musician, poet, song writer and fabric artist,” said his mother, Sally Bettinger Wells, in a phone interview.

“He didn’t have the traditional education because he left school early. He took a GED and passed with flying colors. He had that innate intelligence that served him well,” she said. “He fell in love with the Ashland community, despite his numerous health issues, and was surprisingly ambitious.”

Bettinger did extensive research into Chinese herbs and permaculture, seeking to make a soda at his Phoenix company that would promote the health of himself and others, with a market ranging from Mt. Shasta to Washington state, says Moy.

“He did everything with integrity, making a product he designed ... and he was always at the Growers Market, donated drinks to KS Wild, Bee Girl and many other good causes,” says Moy. “He employed a few people and paid them fairly. He felt spiritual ties to the oaks and even lived on Oak Street. He moved here for the community and became deeply involved in the Native American community, drumming, always involved in community gatherings, cooking demonstrations, all very humbly.”

Bettinger was passionate about homeless issues and the environment and, says Moy, “One time he told me, ‘I want justice now, dammit’ and laughed. He was a unique individual because of his liver and other health issues and had the essence of an older man, caring and gentle, but fierce — and he stood by his ideals.”

One of his products, the Zing Shot, is turmeric and ginger herbal preserve in honey and ginger, according to his website, wylieshoneybrews.com. It also promotes probiotics, based on good bacteria, yeast and jun culture, which feeds off raw honey and green tea.

As to what will become of his business, the family said they don’t yet know.

A public memorial will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at Pioneer Hall on Winburn Way, by Lithia Park. His family wants the celebration to be one of storytelling and support for each other, says Moy. It’s a potluck (alcohol-free), she says, in the sharing spirit of Native Americans.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.