In 1939, 18-year-old Betty Tokar Jankovich briefly dated, and quickly dumped, a comic book artist named Bob Montana. Though she quickly forgot about the young illustrator, he never forgot about her. More than seven decades later, Jankovich was shocked to discover that an ex-boyfriend she only vaguely remembered had named a character after her: She was the inspiration for Betty Cooper from the Archie comics.
Jankovich would likely never have known about her Archie connection if not for filmmaker Gerald Peary. A documentarian, journalist, and Archie super-fan, Peary decided to research the real-life inspiration for the comic book characters. He didn’t expect to actually meet any living real-life members of the gang—he just wanted to find out if they’d really existed.
But one day, Peary’s head researcher, Shaun Clancy, came to him with an amazing discovery: according to Montana’s widow, Betty was a former girlfriend who, after dumping Montana, had gone on to marry the police chief of Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
Armed with that one clue, Peary and Clancy managed to track down Jankovich, who still lives in New Jersey. Jankovich, now 94 years old, had no idea Montana had named a character after her.
When she heard the news, memories of the young Montana came flooding back. Jankovich told The New York Times she’d met the artist while working in the cafeteria of the Western Union Building with her sister Helen. One day, Montana and a friend had invited her and Helen out, and she’d thought “We work in the same building and you’re very nice-looking men, so why not?”
Though the relationship didn’t last, Jankovich remembers Montana fondly. When Peary got in touch, she enthusiastically agreed to participate in his documentary and tell the story of her brief relationship with the Archie illustrator.
The documentary, Archie’s Betty, is now playing in festivals, and Jankovich is thoroughly amused by the sudden attention. “It’s wonderful the way it developed,” she told the Times. “To have all this publicity at the age of 94, it is ironic, isn’t it?”
[h/t: New York Times]