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Betty Pitts, center, known as the matriarch and former first lady of Blowing Rock, is surrounded by event hosts at the June 13 afternoon tea, during which she was introduced as the honorary chairwoman of the 2013 Blowing Rock Hospital Fashion Show and Luncheon. From left are Lynn Lawrence, Pitts and Suzanne Miller. Photo by Sherrie Norris

Originally published: 2013-06-22 17:24:33
Last modified: 2013-06-22 17:31:59

Community honors Betty Pitts

by Sherrie Norris

Betty Pitts is one of Blowing Rock's most revered residents and community servants whose influence across Watauga County has been felt for decades.

She has been recognized in a myriad of settings for her selfless giving of time and talent, but she said her most recent introduction as honorary chairwoman of the upcoming 2013 Blowing Rock Hospital Fashion Show and Luncheon holds a special place in her heart.

"I've been around longer than the current hospital," she said. "And, I gave birth to five of my seven children there, not including my first who was born in the old clinic. I have always been honored to be a part of the hospital and have tried to do whatever I could to help."

The list of her contributions to the hospital is lengthy -- as is the one for the community.

An afternoon tea on June 13 at the home of Tucker and Ginny Yates on Green Hill Circle honored Pitts in the presence of about 45 friends, family members and associates, most of whom were adorned in hats of every size, shape and color.

Pitts accepted her role with the grace, dignity and humor for which she is known around her hometown.

Introduced by Suzanne Miller, chairwoman of this year's fashion show and luncheon, Pitts was described as one whose lifetime impact upon Blowing Rock is immeasurable, through her service in the faith and medical community, as well as from her contributions to education, the arts and local history.
"Blowing Rock's former first lady (and matriarch) has always had a heart of gold," Miller said. "Betty has served for many years on the fashion show committee and has always helped, in any way she could, with special events for the hospital."

Two chickens and a baby

Pitts' story began nearly 84 years ago when she was born in the middle of what is now Devil's Lake on top of Seven Devils.

"I was delivered by 'Granny Yarber,' who was paid two chickens for my delivery," she said. "My brother was more expensive -- he cost my parents a pig."

She was 13 when she gave her heart to the Lord.

"I dreamed of becoming a missionary, but, I never got to do that," she said.

She was almost 16, she says, when she married Hayden Pitts and entered what she calls "the Pitts University of Life." Her husband was 21.

They eventually had seven children and always welcomed others into their home -- for short periods of time or for as long as the youngsters needed a place to feel loved and secure.

Hayden owned and operated a gas station where the Blowing Rock Market sits today and where patrons often found a listening ear and a compassionate heart. He often brought people home for supper and sometimes they ended up staying until they got back on their feet -- many times way past supper and often for days at a time, she said.

Hayden and Betty were known for their benevolent spirit, their love for God and for humanity.
Hayden served as the Blowing Rock town mayor for 14 years and was on the town council for seven years.

Betty has served the hospital as auxiliary president, as a member of the board of trustees and helped established the hospital chapel.

"There was no place in the hospital to go to pray," she said, "but with the help of Dr. Davant and Bob Bumbaugh, we found a place for our chapel."

She was also instrumental in starting The Budget Box, a thrift store that raises money to help fund special needs within the hospital. She continues to volunteer at the shop every Wednesday.

Beyond the hospital

In the 1960s and '70s, Pitts served as chairwoman of the Blowing Rock March of Dimes.

In 1973, she helped organize the Blowing Rock Rescue Squad, after a close family friend needed emergency services and no ambulance was available to take him to the hospital.

"My husband and Carl Underwood borrowed money to buy our first ambulance," she said.

The loan was eventually paid off by the community club, of which she was president at one time.

In the meantime, the couple took emergency response training and received crisis calls at their home.

When someone called in with an emergency, Pitts said, Hayden responded with the ambulance and she "dispatched" other volunteers to the scene.

She also served as chaplain of the squad for 20 years before she retired.

"I was so pleased to be able to lead the prayer and maybe offer a little comfort to the families when we went to pick up someone in the home," she said.

Pitts has held the title of Blowing Rock's Citizen of the Year and Woman of the Year. She was also recognized as Mother of the Year at Western Carolina Center in Morganton, where her son, Michael,  resided for several years in Elm Cottage.

During that time, she also served as president of the Hilltoppers Association and helped establish a facility chapel.

"I was so pleased to have a place for the residents to go to worship and pray -- and for Michael to continue to have a church environment, like he had at home," she said.

Pitts has chaired the  care committee that provides meals for the community's sick and shut-ins. For more than 20 years, she was also part of the Pitts Family Singers that provides visits and music each month at Blowing Rock Hospital's Davant Extended Care.

Since 1995, Pitts has penned the "Quiet Corner" column which appears weekly in The Blowing Rocket with updates on local people, happenings and prayer needs.

She has also been a longtime active member of First Baptist Church, Blowing Rock, where she has held many teaching and leadership posts and where she still sings in the choir. She opens her home for anyone who needs prayer and a listening ear.

She was a hospice volunteer and especially loved her visits with the late storyteller Ray Hicks.
Pitts served on the Blue Ridge Electric advisory board and with her daughter, Lynn Lawrence, is currently a member of the advisory board for RHA -- a group home, where her son, Michael, resides during the week.

"It's such a wonderful place," she said. "I don't know what I would do without them."

Pitts said it's her family that matters most of all.

"I have been blessed with such sweet children and grandchildren," she said. "They don't interfere in my life, but they see that my needs are met."

Pitts said that she has had a wonderful, rich life. "Not in material things," she said, "but in the Lord's blessings."

The 36th annual Blowing Rock Fashion Show Benefit and Luncheon will be held 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 2 at the Blowing Rock Country Club.

For more information, visit, or contact Megan Lynch Ellis at (828) 262-9564 or email (