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Betty Matas, famous cross-country taxi fare

PHOENIX -- The New York woman who made national headlines in April when she and her husband took a cross-country taxi ride to their new retirement home in Sedona, Ariz., has died.

Betty Matas, who was 75, died Monday from pneumonia and a heart attack. She had been hospitalized for two weeks with severe kidney and heart problems, her husband, Bob, said.

Although she had health problems before moving from Queens, the couple were happy about having made the 2,500-mile journey.

"She never regretted it," Bob Matas said. "That's what she really wanted to do."

The two hired New York cabdriver Douglas Guldeniz to take them the entire way to spare their two cats from a trip in an airplane cargo hold. Both spent their lives in the New York area and never learned to drive.

Guldeniz said he had agreed to the cross-country trip because of the rapport he felt with them.

"I [wanted] to try and help Bob and Betty. When I see Bob and Betty, we like each other. They like me, I like them," Guldeniz said.

The couple met Guldeniz in January, when they hailed his taxi in Manhattan after a shopping trip. They later jokingly invited him to come along on their upcoming move.

As the three talked during the ensuing weeks, the gag became reality. The Matases, their cats, and Guldeniz left the couple's neighborhood April 10 and arrived in Sedona almost a week later.

Betty Matas was born in Queens and lived most of her life there, working for 38 years as an executive secretary. Her funeral will be held tomorrow in Sedona.

Matas said his wife's charm helped them make friends in the short time they lived there. "Everybody was drawn to her," he said.