Betty’s newspaper obituary:
MORRIS, Betty Miller, passed away Saturday, May 8, 2010 with her family nearby. Born in 1939, she was a native of Chesapeake and a daughter of the late Dwight and Virginia Miller. Survivors include her beloved husband of nearly 50 years, R. Dennis Morris; two children, Robyn Virginia Morris and her family, Becca and Alexandria St. Clair; and Dwight Morris and his wife, Kathy, and their daughters, Sarah and Heather Morris. She is also survived by an older sister, Jeanne Gammon and her children, Allison Weaver, Stephen Gammon, Virginia Gammon and Lee Gammon. Other survivors include Betty’s sister-in-law’s family who include Katherine Morris Andes and Robert Andes and their children, Susan Lutzic, Jeffrey and Katie Andes; and by a special friend, Judith Turner. Betty graduated from Great Bridge High School in 1957. She went on to school at the University of Richmond, Westhampton College as a psychology major. After graduating, she taught school. In 1958, she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease which she fought to remission. Throughout her life, she had two more episodes with Hodgkins and she won both of those battles. She also fought and conquered thyroid cancer in the early 1970s. Betty was a very selfless, giving and thoughtful individual. In the 1960s, she spent a great deal of her time at the Baptist Goodwill Inner City Mission in Richmond, Va., teaching young women life skills such as sewing and meal preparation. She was always active in her church, wherever she was. She was the choir director at Monument Heights Baptist Church in Richmond, Va. In the 1970s, she directed the children’s choir with a passion at Huguenot Road Baptist Church in Richmond. Betty worked for the American Cancer Society while living in the Annapolis, Md. area. She also actively led a Bible Study for her neighbors. She moved back to the Chesapeake area upon her husband’s retirement and took care of her aging mother for 10 years until her mother’s passing in 2002. For several years, she was involved in a Samaritan program sending boxes of essentials to the children of war-torn Afghanistan. She was a giant Gaither Gospel music fan and went to concerts throughout the United States. Through this involvement, a group of friend/fans formed and they called themselves The Magnolias. Betty was a special fan of Russ Taff. One of her last life adventures was taking a Gaither Alaskan Cruise with her oldest granddaughter. Dr. H.T. Dixon Jr. will conduct a Celebration of Life Service at the Mount Pleasant Mennonite Church, 2041 Mount Pleasant Road, Chesapeake, Va. At the request of her children, friends and family are invited to share a special memory or story about Betty during the service. A gathering of family and friends will follow immediately after the service in the church social hall where the “Mennonite Ladies” will serve light refreshments. In lieu of flowers, donations to the American Cancer Society or Cradock Baptist Church are requested. Condolences may be offered to the family at www.hollomon-brown.com.
First of all I want to tell you how incredibly sorry Russ and I are that we cannot be there in person to honor Betty with you. I will never understand why all of these circumstances made it completely impossible for us to come today. We have no choice but to accept the reality of the situation, and I do know that Betty, ever the practical one, would fuss at me for letting something I have no control over bother me so much—but it does. So I decided the only way I’m going to be able to not feel like I’m letting her down is that I am just going to pretend she took one look at me down here in Tennessee, flat on my back in bed and pitiful, and said, “Tori, what are you thinking, I FORBID you to travel!” That makes it easier for me to handle. I’m used to her bossing me around!
Well, for someone who never has any trouble expressing herself, this has been the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Not because it’s hard for me to talk about Betty, or to tell you all the things I loved about her, but because for the first time in my life, words feel inadequate. Betty, for all of her humility, was quite simply larger than life.
To tell you the truth, I can’t quite remember the first time we ever “met” each other. I do know that it was either by email or through the Gaithernet message boards; we didn’t actually see each other face to face for quite a long time. Knowing Betty, she probably contacted me on behalf of someone else, like maybe to see if I could arrange for Russ to meet Momma Lloyd at a concert, or to offer to do something for us, like work Russ’ product table—which by the way, NOBODY ever did better!
I liked Betty immediately. I come from a long line of strong, opinionated women so we ‘got’ each other right off the bat. Her sly sense of humor delighted me, her fierce intelligence and uncompromising sense of justice impressed me. She was so openhearted and generous, and so loyal and committed to the people she loved that my heart knew instinctively that it would always be safe with Betty. And it always was. Betty was never afraid to offer advice or tell me the truth as she saw it, but she was also the least judgmental person I knew. UNLESS someone happened to cross one of her friends, or do something to hurt the innocent—then TRUST ME, she had no problem passing judgment, and holding that person accountable! But if that person was genuinely sorry and tried to make amends? Then she offered forgiveness, with no strings attached. That was justice, Betty-style—always served up with plenty of mercy. (But if they knew what was good for them, they better not ever do it again!)
I loved that Betty’s passionate political views were always getting her into trouble. This sounds terrible, but honestly, no one got a bigger kick out of Betty getting kicked off of Gaithernet than me! I teased her about it all the time and she was so completely unrepentant about the circumstances—hey, she didn’t think she was being political, she was just being an American! In typical Betty fashion, she just calmly figured out a way to get around it and kept visiting the message boards whenever she felt like it… often signed in as Momma Lloyd or Linda B! It is a huge testament to her character that she was able to be friends with so many people who did not share her exact political or religious views or opinions—like me, for instance! I know she probably shook her head many times at my liberal leanings, but she liked me too much to let our differences get in the way– although I’m sure she never gave up hope that I would “see the light” some day! Betty didn’t ever feel the need to surround herself only with people who agreed with everything she said—“Where’s the fun in that?” she’d say.
If the fiercest part of Betty was reserved for the underdogs of the world, the sweetest, gentlest part of Betty belonged to her beloved family and friends. She cherished all of you so much. I’m incredibly sorry that I am not able to be there with you right this minute and finally match up faces and voices to the names and pictures and stories she has shared with me over the years. I do feel as if I know you, because I know what you’ve meant to her.
Dennis, I’d like to speak a personal word to you, if it doesn’t embarrass you too much to be singled out (and of course, it will!): Betty just adored you. Not in a girlish, hearts-and-flowers kind of way—it was the kind of deep abiding love that only comes through the test of time. Her love for you had its eyes wide open. It was a love that had learned how to forgive and accept, that knew how to give and take, that had found a place of comfort and companionship in spite of the seemingly eternal irreconcilable differences between an Introvert and an Extrovert. Betty taught me how to understand that kind of love because she recognized it when she saw it in my marriage to Russ. And in some of my darkest hours, Betty loaned me some of her hard-earned wisdom and experience and convinced me that love is always worth fighting for. Russ and I are grateful that Betty loved you so much and so well, Dennis. Our marriage is the better for it.
I honestly don’t know how to say goodbye to Betty. I think part of me hasn’t completely accepted the fact that she’s really gone. I mean, when you consider all of the things she’s beaten in her life, it just doesn’t seem possible that she didn’t somehow beat all the odds and astound all of the doctors one more time. I fully expected that this would be another triumphant chapter in her amazing life story, the story of Betty The Ultimate Survivor. But of course I have been miles and miles away from the daily reality of how very, very sick she’s been and much she has suffered. Those of you here with her on the front lines of her fight haven’t had the luxury of the kind of denial I’ve been able to maintain. You know better than anyone what a warrior she has been—and how very much she has earned the rest that she has now entered into. And no matter how much I will miss her, I could never wish her anything better than what she is experiencing right now in the company of the angels, in the arms of the Savior she served so well, and knowing Betty, on the front row of every gospel concert heaven has to offer! With a big ol’ laminated backstage pass, too, I bet!
So themema, my beloved friend, I WILL say goodbye. Thank you for loving Russ so much—he absolutely loved you back. Thank you for delighting in my children—Madi Rose and Charlotte thought you were so cool! Thank you for bringing Momma Lloyd and Linda into my life—I’ll try to love them half as well as you did. I won’t forget the things you taught me, or the stories you told me, or the sacred trust you placed in me. I’ll smile every time I think of you, which will be often, and I know I’ll see you again.
We’ll have SO much catching up to do, Betty– save me a seat!