Betty Jo Jackson Byrd passed away quietly at home in Vienna, Virginia at the age of 92 on July 6, 2019. Born in Altus, Oklahoma, August 23, 1926, Betty lived most of her life in Vienna. Betty spent her early days in Altus, moving later to a family farm near Abernathy, Texas with her parents and sister.
After graduating from New Deal High School in 1944, and against her mother’s wishes, Betty took a train across the country to take a job with the Department of the Navy, arriving in Washington on June 6, 1944, D-Day. After World War II was over, she traveled back to Lubbock, graduating from Texas Tech in 1947 with a degree in English. Betty taught English for several years at Abernathy High School, then her wanderlust took over once again and she traveled back to Washington, D.C., where she took a position at the Library of Congress. It was a job Betty thoroughly enjoyed, surrounded by books and frequented by those passionate about literature and the preservation of knowledge. It was also there that she had the opportunity to meet Queen Elizabeth, an event she never forgot.
While working at the Library of Congress, Betty shared an apartment with two other young ladies. They lived upstairs from an apartment occupied by three young men, who took an interest in them. Betty, being older than her roommates, tended to watch out for them and cautioned them against spending too much time with the young men, as they seemed to have quite the social life. The men, being persistent, convinced the young ladies to attend the latest soirée. Betty joined them as their “chaperone”, though was not looking forward to the experience. One of the young men took a liking to Betty, though she was not interested. After the party, he came to her door on a regular basis, bringing small gifts. As Betty would later tell, his persistence “wore her down”. That gentleman, Warren “Chug” Byrd, became her adoring husband in 1952, a position only relinquished by his passing in 2013. Betty and Chug moved to Cabin John, Maryland, and Betty taught at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School until their first child, Warren Jr. was born.
Soon afterward, Chug fulfilled a promise to Betty that they would travel, moving to Nicosia, Cyprus in 1954. Chug neglected to mention that there was a civil war in progress, though she persevered through nearby bombings and British military actions, raising her young son while adding two new members of the family, Duncan and Susan. After Cyprus, it was back to the mainland, where Betty and Chug purchased a home in Vienna, Virginia in 1957. Shortly thereafter, the family was off on another adventure, this time to Okinawa, Japan, where their fourth child, David was born. In 1961 they made a final return to the U.S. and Vienna, Virginia, where their daughter, Elizabeth was born.
Despite having the full-time occupation of raising five children, Betty took on the task of raising funds for Marshall Road Elementary School's library and Fairfax County's music programs by writing and directing musical variety shows featuring teachers and parents throughout the time her children attended the school. She strongly encouraged her children to play musical instruments, which all of them did with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Singing was also an integral part of family life and family outings in the station wagon involved travels through the entire family songbook, from Nat King Cole to Roger Miller.
Betty also found the time to volunteer for the Democratic Party, becoming involved in numerous local, state and Federal election campaigns, including Henry Howell, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and Shirley Chisholm.
In her later years, Betty enjoyed the family gatherings, where her shared love of music with Chug and the family played a central role, and all gatherings ended in a celebration of song. She and Chug also enjoyed participating in Personal History writing classes at the Vienna Community Center, recording many stories her children enjoy reading to this day. Betty loved nature and gardening, and encouraged her children to explore and enjoy the natural world, which they all have embraced in varied ways through careers and their home life.
She is survived by a son, Warren Jr., his wife Sue and their daughter, Susanna; a son, Duncan, his wife Tracy and their son Duncan Jr., their daughter Whitney, her husband Jesse and daughter Liza Jane; A daughter Susan, her husband Edward Lubert and their sons Mason and Noah; a son David, his wife, Sharon and their daughter Kelly; and a daughter, Elizabeth. She is also survived by her sister, Paula Jackson Gatlin and many nieces and nephews. Betty was predeceased by her husband Warren (Chug) Byrd, sister Charlene Fullingim, parents Charles and Lela Jackson, and her grandson, Nathaniel Byrd.
In lieu of sending flowers, the family suggests you might consider planting a few in her memory. And maybe put up a bird feeder or two.