Elizabeth "Betty" Bagby Chester
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Elizabeth "Betty" Bagby Chester died peacefully on July 12, 2021 at the age of 99 after a long and full life. Born March 7, 1922 in Johnson City, Tennessee, she treasured her 60 years of living at Music Hall farm in the Keswick community in the foothills of Virginia.
Betty was known for her warmth, ability to inspire others, creativity, and leadership in her family, community, and workplace. After graduating from high school in Johnson City, Tennessee, she earned a bachelor's degree in home economics from East Tennessee State University and a master's degree in special education from the University of Virginia. She was the quintessential Rosie the Riveter at Glenn L. Martin of Baltimore during WWII where she met her husband, Don. After the war, Betty worked in retail at Montgomery Ward and then Miller & Rhodes department store in Charlottesville where she rose to the level of assistant manager before stepping down to raise her two young daughters. She then went on to become an advocate and teacher for students with special needs. Her kind and effective way of teaching students was legendary. Community service was always an important part of her life. Serving as the director of volunteers for the University of Virginia Hospital Auxiliary in 1967 and as a member of the planning committee for the centennial celebration of Grace Episcopal Church in 1996 were just some of many roles Betty took on over the years. She retired from teaching in the Albemarle County school system at 62 and volunteered with Grace Episcopal Church and the Keswick Garden Club for decades. Her flower arrangements were often ribbon winners. Betty loved gardening, playing bridge, birdwatching, and most of all, her large network of family and friends. She lived with zest, organizing family trips to birdwatch in Trinidad into her nineties. She was a role model to her two daughters and their families on how to live life to the fullest and accept life's obstacles with determination, humor and courage.
The fourth of six children of James Willis Bagby and Lucille Shuford Bagby, Betty was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Donal Gordon Chester; and four siblings, James Willis Bagby, Lucille Bagby Elliott, Virginia Bagby Adams, and William Robinson Bagby. She is survived by her brother, Robert Ward Bagby; her daughters, Ann Chester McGraw (James Bryan McGraw) and Barbara Chester Little (Lawrence Emory Little); her five grandchildren Ian Carmichael McGraw, Trevor Lee McGraw, Lindsay Little Gray, Caitlin Ann McGraw, and Allison Emory Little; and four great-grandchildren, Liya Zhu McGraw, Reiya Zhu McGraw, Bodhi Carmichael McGraw, and Virginia Lindsay Gray.
The family is grateful for the capable and compassionate care Betty received from the staff at Shannondale, Dr. David Knoll, and Heather Shannon with Amedisys Hospice.
A memorial service will be held at the Grandview Pavilion and Legacy Trail in Maryville, Tennessee, on September 5th at 2 pm with the Reverend Dr. Emily J. Anderson officiating.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Grace Episcopal Church, P.O. Box 43, Keswick, VA 22947 (online donations accepted at gracekeswick.org).
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