Elizabeth Williams McDonald Anderson passed away on June 8, 2019, after a prolonged struggle with brain cancer.
Elizabeth, known as Betsy, was a homemaker, volunteer, storyteller, teacher, artist, psychologist, farm manager, interior designer, lifelong faithful Christian and a flagbearer of color, curiosity and creativity.
She was born on July 29, 1928, in Chattanooga, Tenn., where she lived prior to joining her two daughters and their families in Atlanta, Ga., in 2015. An alumna of Girls Preparatory School, she attended Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and graduated from the University of Chattanooga. In midlife, she received a degree in Christian counseling from Psychological Studies Institute (Richmont Graduate University).
Betsy’s early years were marked by fierce frivolity and grand adventure with her four siblings in Chattanooga and at their centuries-old family home, McDonald Farm in Sale Creek, Tenn. Music, drama, art and laughter anchored daily life as Betsy and family made art, founded the family newspaper business and documented their vibrant lives in skits, stories, songs, poems, photos and newspapers.
Betsy met the love of her life Lee Stratton Anderson on a blind date, and they were only two days short of their 67th wedding anniversary at her death. As he became editor and publisher of the Chattanooga News-Free Press, the newspaper founded by her father Roy McDonald, Betsy’s journalistic bent blossomed. She met with U.S. presidents in the White House, traveled the world (Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and then some ….) and wrote of her adventures in the daily paper. When the newspaper’s union workers went on strike, she went to work, learning electronic typesetting to help see the family business through its transition from ”hot” type to “cold” type.
Always curious and never boring, Betsy moved through life with speed and passion, flying in hot air balloons across Europe, riding camels up Mount Sinai, commandeering dune buggies in the Arab Emirates, navigating the Nile and bargaining for rugs in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. She painted thousands of miniature soldiers for Confederama, the diorama of local civil war battles which she and Lee created together. She was a gifted pianist, favoring classical pieces, ragtime and hymn medleys. Never one to say no, Betsy learned to play the bagpipes in her 60s, underscoring her strong Scottish heritage as she donned full regalia and performed for Chattanooga and Atlanta audiences.
Her Christian ethic and strength were legendary as she led Bible studies, oversaw Women of the (First Presbyterian) Church and supported a vast number of Christian missions. A special passion was the Chambliss Center for Children where she was chief Easter bunny and board chair for many years. Her church ministry and Bible study continued at Lenbrook Square in Atlanta where she greeted worshippers each Sunday. She compiled her “rules” for healthy, happy living in a document she called “Betsy’s Bullets” and often reminded family that “expectations are subtle demands” and “I don’t have to go to every fight I’m invited to.”
Betsy survived family dramas, a charging African wild rhino, a home invasion, multiple joint replacements, a stroke and eventually a brain tumor which spawned a final bright flourish of storytelling and drama. And she will long be remembered for her spunk, honesty, colorful clothing, statement necklaces, love of “inanimate animals,” homemade pistachio ice cream and a signature elbow dance performed on every family trip and wedding dance floor.
Betsy is predeceased by her husband of 64 years Lee Stratton Anderson, her four siblings, Helen, Martha, Frank and Nancy, and many much-loved nieces and nephews. She is survived by two daughters, Corinne Anderson Adams (Jeff) and Mary Stewart Anderson (J. B. Graf); two grandchildren, Claire Adams Spears (Drew) and Samuel Anderson Adams (Leigh), and three great grandchildren, Anderson and Suzanne Adams and Corinne Elizabeth Spears.
The family wishes to thank France Ulysse, Theresa Soukoury, Kadia Cohen-Patterson and Rachel Vilera for their unending devotion as chief caregivers. We share that gratitude with Petal Anderson, Ome Dafalla, Von Young, Herfa Jones, Weini Eyoub and other angels who have stood by us. We treasure Betsy’s lifelong friends Donna Durand, Jeanne Evans, Teeny Lassiter and their supportive families.
A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, June 19, at 2 p.m., at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, with visitation at 1 p.m. An Atlanta celebration of Betsy’s life will be held at Lenbrook Square on Saturday, June 22, at 11 a.m.
Memorial donations may be made to First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga or the Kevin Baker Music Program for children in the inner-city English Avenue community of Atlanta (www.foea.org