Belen Go Pavon took her pastimes seriously, researching until she mastered them. She predicted sports outcomes, invested shrewdly and scored frequent wins at casinos and the racetrack.
She was also a successful accountant and a renowned cook of Filipino cuisine and had a great sense of humor.
"She was extremely intelligent and really witty at times and loved to tease," said her daughter, Anna Santos of Minneapolis.
Pavon died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Nov. 23 at home in Minneapolis, in the company of her daughter. She was 85.
Born in 1935 in Tuguegarao City in the Philippines, Pavon had a rough childhood. She was the youngest of 16 siblings; two were stillborn and most of the others died during World War II — some from disease, a couple executed by the Japanese.
She married and became pregnant, only to find that the man already had a wife and children. She kicked him out of the house and raised her daughter on her own.
In 1969, she visited a sister, then living in Golden Valley, planning to move to the United States and make a life as a single mother. She arranged for her daughter and mother to join her once she found a job.
With a degree in business administration, Pavon worked as a corporate accountant at the Dayton Hudson Corp. for 37 years, until her retirement. The family lived in southwest Minneapolis.
Fiercely independent, Pavon took no guff. In high school, she poured boiling water on a boy's hand when he tried to grope her. Years later, she took Santos to Disneyland, where a park employee dressed as Goofy tried to put his arms around the girl. Pavon whacked him with an umbrella.
"Yeah, she was pretty feisty," Santos said, laughing.
Pavon bought three houses in Minneapolis and taught her daughter to strip wallpaper, paint and garden. She continued taking care of her mother, who was slipping into dementia and began wandering into other people's homes.
She learned to cook from her father, a chef in the Philippines, and her cooking was renowned at a time when there were no Filipino restaurants in Minnesota, so that style of cuisine was hard to come by outside of home kitchens.
"My boyfriends loved her," partly for her cooking, Santos said.
They especially liked a dish made of pork and ox blood. "One of my boyfriends, he would call it 'mud,' " Santos said.
The boyfriends, in turn, introduced Pavon to the Twins and Vikings and she became a big baseball and football fan. She knew the games so well that she could predict which teams would win playoffs and Super Bowls.
"I wish I would have gotten her into fantasy football because she knew all the players," Santos said.
The racetrack was another favorite destination.
"She got hold of a book about the horse lineage so she would know who the horses were, who the owners were and who the handlers were and then the jockeys," Santos said.
Pavon went to casinos, read up on blackjack and developed such expertise with slot machines that "she claimed that she knew the algorithms of certain slot machines," Santos said. She won at least as often as she lost, her daughter said. When the two of them took a cruise together, Pavon won $2,500 in slot machines the first night.
"She knew a little about everything," Santos said.
In addition to Santos, Pavon's survivors include her sister Zenaida Nagano of Savannah, Texas. Services have been held.
Katy Read • 612-673-4583