Betty Ann Foster Blackburn, 84, of Wilkesboro, passed away peacefully Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020.
Born in Wilkes County June 22, 1936, to Furches and Elizabeth “Lizzy” Foster, she was the youngest of 12 children. She completed elementary and high school education at Mount Pleasant, graduating in 1954. She was a high school cheerleader and was one of a fun-loving friend group known affectionately around school as “The Foolish Five.” While there, she met her heartthrob and married upper classman J. Eldrege Blackburn soon after graduation, in a union lasting for more than 35 years.
She exemplified a life of service to God and humanity over the years. Blessed with a spirit of generosity, she enjoyed giving gifts to others around her and took care of her aging mother and a sister for several years. She and her husband were active attendees of Pilgrim Baptist Church. For more than 30 years, Betty Ann started Sunday mornings earlier than most people, arriving at church in time to play the piano so the choir would be well prepared. During summer Bible school programs at Pilgrim, she dedicated time to help the children with art projects and other activities. In the 1960s, she invited the visiting “preacher” and Pilgrim’s regular pastor to her modest home to enjoy a classic home-cooked meal before they led the church revival meeting later that evening.
Betty began her working career in the 1950s with successive textile jobs at Peerless Hosiery, “L&L” and Wilkes Glove. In the 1960s, she taught piano lessons at Mount Pleasant Elementary for two years and later from her home in Wilkesboro. She then worked at Lowes Food’s Stamp Redemption Store, followed by over 16 years as a sales clerk at Roses, where she became a trusted familiar face to regular customers. Her favorite job was being a mother and doting on her grandchildren. She always found the perfect gifts, bringing much joy to them and others.
She began piano lessons as a young child and continued into her adult years, with progressively more advancement. Artistically creative and musically talented, she often filled the room with beautiful piano music, ranging from folk tunes and pop to the great classical works. When she was only a little girl, she said that it was really special when she got to walk with her beloved Papa over the hillside from her family’s farm to attend church at Pilgrim. Family lore tells how she played the piano for many of the Sunday morning worship services at Pilgrim before her feet could even reach the floor pedals of the piano.
In the most recent years, she resided at Westwood Hills Assisted Living in Wilkesboro. At Westwood, she played piano for some of the Saturday or Sunday worship services. Even after it was difficult to see the sheet music notes, she could still play hundreds of songs from her amazing memory. While there, she also became interested in creating dozens of art drawings. Many included a mischievous comical line or witty little poem that she gave to other residents and staff or mailed to friends and family. As an avid Tar Heel basketball fan, she excitedly viewed most of the TV games and knew the names of the players. Betty had a boldness and very strong will that enabled her to persevere through adversity and overcome recurring health challenges.
She was predeceased by siblings Veonia, Sterlie, Arvin, Richard, Zella, Mildred, Olin, Ellena, twins Harry and Harold, Billy Gene and grandson William Bingham Blackburn. Betty is survived by her son, J. Douglas Blackburn and his wife, Betsy, her grandchildren, Jason Blackburn and his partner, Christine, Catherine (Katie) Blackburn, Kellie Blackburn and great-grandchild, Cecilia (Ci-Ci) Blackburn.
In consideration of the pandemic guidelines, the family will receive friends on the outside grounds of Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home from noon to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24. Funeral Services will start at 1 p.m. at Reins-Sturdivant, held under a large outdoor tent with seating arranged to enable social distancing. Everyone is requested to wear a face mask. Burial will follow at Pilgrim Baptist Church Cemetery, 591 Pilgrim Church Road, Wilkesboro, N.C., 28697.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Pilgrim Baptist Church. The family wishes to extend a special thank you to the staff and caregivers at Westwood Hills. Online condolences may be made at reinssturdivant.com.