Published 6:43 pm Friday, April 28, 2017
BOYKINS — On Monday, April 24, 2017, Elizabeth Gray Lincoln Francis (Betty Brown), 89, passed away peacefully at her home in Virginia Beach surrounded by her sons and immediate family.
She was the daughter of the late Willard Lincoln and Elizabeth Lincoln O’Neil of Marion, Virginia, and stepdaughter of William O’Neil of Richmond.
Betty grew up in Richmond, spent her summers in Burke’s Garden and graduated with a B.A. in history from Hollins College in 1948. She worked at radio station WRVA during the summers. After graduation, Betty completed a secretarial course while working at WRVA as assistant director of Public Relations, supplementing her salary by doing freelance modeling for several stores and singing commercials for the station.
In 1950, she married attorney Gilbert Woodrow Francis and moved to Boykins, Virginia, where they had three sons: Gilbert Woodrow Jr., Richard Lincoln and Jeffrey King. In addition to working as secretary for her husband’s law firm, Betty studied fashion merchandising and design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Soon after, she joined the faculty of Chowan College, where she served as the director of the marketing curriculum for 18 years.
Gilbert and Betty worked tirelessly for racial equality in Southampton County in a difficult time. Throughout her marriage, Betty was involved with politics on a local and a national scale, and was chosen as a “Kennedy Girl” in the 1960 election cycle.
In Southampton County, Betty was appointed by the governor to serve on the Board of Visitors for Paul D. Camp Community College; she also served on the Rawls Museum Arts Board of Directors, also serving that board as president. Betty was an active member of the Franklin Music Study Club, the Southampton County Democratic Party, the Southampton County Historical Society, the Blackwater Arts League and of Young Audiences of Virginia.
She regularly attended Boykins Baptist Church, where she served for over 20 years as choir director, and was also a faithful member of the Ruth Sunday School Class. Betty was active in her sons’ lives: Cub Scouts, PTA and other social events, and was renowned throughout her family for burning every biscuit she baked.
Following Gilbert Sr.’s death in 1997, Betty reconnected with her college sweetheart, J. Callaway Brown, whom she married in 2000, and gained a daughter, Anne Callaway Brown Bare. The two relocated to Virginia Beach, joining the community of Atlantic Shores in 2003. Betty dove headfirst into life at Atlantic Shores. She served as chair of the ASCA Residents’ Council and the Welcome and Hospitality Committee as well as the Safety and Security, Marketing, and Food and Beverage committees. Betty was a longtime member of and advocate for the Atlantic Shores Employee Gift Fund as well as the local chapter of the Freedoms Foundation.
Her lifelong love of music continued in Virginia Beach; Betty was also a member of the Forget-Me-Notes, a local singing group, and the Note-ables, a music appreciation group. She remained active in the alumnae/i networks of Hollins University and of Thomas Jefferson High School. Betty was also a member of First Presbyterian Church of Virginia Beach.
The cornerstones of Betty’s life were her family, art and music. She was a world traveler; even after suffering a stroke in the last years of her life, Betty traveled to Florida to celebrate the wedding of her grandson Wills. Betty was predeceased by her husbands, Gilbert Woodrow Francis Sr. and J. Callaway Brown.
Left to cherish her memory are her sons: Gilbert Woodrow Francis Jr. (Bettie) of Pinebluff, North Carolina; Richard Lincoln Francis (Inga) of Boykins; and Jeffrey King Francis (Laurie) of Virginia Beach; a stepdaughter, Anne Callaway Brown Bare (Mark) of Richmond; as well as four grandchildren: Kersti Anna Francis of Los Angeles, California; Wills Gray Francis (Ali) of Chicago, Illinois; Wesley King Francis of Newport Beach, California; and Elizabeth Grace Francis of Pinebluff.
The family extends heartfelt thanks to the loving care provided by Laticia Greene, Vanessa Williams, Tigist Jissa and the entire staff of the Atlantic Shores CNAs.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Atlantic Shores Employee Gift Fund, 1200 Atlantic Shores Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23454; the Rawls Museum Arts, 22376 Linden St., Courtland, VA 23837; and/or Hollins University, 7916 Williamson Road, Roanoke, VA 24019.
The funeral will be on Monday, May 1, at 1 p.m., in Boykins Baptist Church by the Revs. Bettie G. Francis and Philip E. Motley, followed by a graveside service at Beechwood Cemetery.
Arrangements are provided by Wright Funeral Home, Franklin, Virginia.
A memorial service at Atlantic Shores will be announced.