Long-time former extension coordinator, Betty Wilson, dies

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By Blenda Copeland

The Phenix City/Russell County area has lost another pillar of the community.

Betty Harris Wilson, 82, of Phenix City, died Saturday in the comfort of her home.

Wilson was a well-known and very active figure in this region. She was Russell County’s extension coordinator for 43 years and was involved in numerous organizations, committees and boards involving home economics, farm life and other social organizations, including the Russell County Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors, of which she an active member until recent years, among many others.

She also was a faithful member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Phenix City and deeply devoted to her family.

“She was a pillar of the community who for 43 years steered the extension program successfully,” said Jennifer Davidson, Russell County’s current extension coordinator. “She will be sorely missed.”

Becky Martin, one of the young women who was influenced by Wilson’s leadership, remembers her legacy fondly.

“We had a 4-H club called The Busy Dozen, and there were 12 of us in the group and she impacted all of our lives,” Martin said. “She wanted to make you the best that you could be as in 4-H, as in Girl Scouts, or whatever you chose to do. She wanted you to do your best. She was involved in everything: the (Russell County) Cattleman’s Association, the Farmers Federation, and she lent her knowledge of how to do things. At the Chattahoochee Valley fair, she was with us, (helping us) with tablescapes, flowers, art, and we showed cattle.

“With the homemakers’ club, they would meet at each other’s house and my mom was in that club and they learned CPR and everything else. (Mrs. Wilson) taught canning and the way to do it so it wasn’t so dangerous with the pressure cookers from long ago. She was a super lady […], a ‘Superwoman.’”

JoAnne C. Laney also remembers Wilson with warm memories.

“She played an important part in all of our lives because of the influence that she had on us,” Laney said.

“Of all people, Betty had a tremendous influence on all of us of this age bracket. We all appreciated her input and her genuine concern about the issues that were always coming up. You always knew that you could trust her opinion on it.”

“She was a wonderful friend. And we did all appreciate her. She was a good influence with those of us that worked with the chamber and those of us who worked with DHR (Department of Human Resources) and whatever we had going. She was one of those people who was right there to be a part of it.”

“We just all felt like we were family with her.

“We were the (Phenix City-Russell County Chamber of Commerce’s) first ambassadors, and she was determined that we do it right.”

One thing Wilson was known for was doing things in proper order.

She received special recognition as one of the Gracious Ladies of Georgia, an elite title for women who have distinguished themselves in society by their grace and other public achievements.

“Mama was one of the first Alabamians welcomed,” said Wilson’s daughter, Dr. Brindlea Wilson Griffin. “It was a group of ladies who dedicated their lives to public service.”

Griffin said her mother modeled for her what community involvement looked like.

“I was taught and raised to serve others,” Griffin said. “Community was very important to her. If she was not serving others, she was not herself. She was a very organized lady in order to get so much done (community service-wise).”

Griffin said her mother taught her many lessons, which began with community involvement: helping others, persevering and enduring – and to pray – and pray harder.

“She raised a lot of money for our school system and no one told Ms. Betty ‘No,’” Griffin said. “She was compassionate, caring and gracious to people. Served everybody. I have been blessed to have my mother for 82 years. I am who I am because of her. She adores my daughter.”

According to her obituary, Wilson is survived by her daughter, Dr. Brindlea Wilson Griffin and husband Rev. Donald Griffin of Phenix City, Ala., sister, Mary Kate McCollum of Birmingham, Ala., sister-in-law, Biruta Harris of Edmond, Okla.; (2) grandchildren, Lena Lemieux Dawkins and husband Hunter, and Christopher Griffin and wife Lisa, (1) precious great granddaughter, Sarah Grace Griffin, nieces and nephews, Eva Harris Huston and husband Mark, Christopher Harris, Amber Harris, and Jem McCollum, cousin, Ann Poe and husband Thomas, numerous other loving family members, church family, and many caring friends.

Flowers are welcome or contributions may be made to Trinity United Methodist Church.

A celebration of life funeral service was held yesterday, May 2, 2018, at Vance Memorial Chapel in Phenix City with Rev. Bruce Johnson, Rev. Steve Reneau, Chaplain Daniel Mitchell, and Rev. Donald Griffin officiating.