Betty Jean Strickland Kersh, 93, passed peacefully at home, in the wee hours of morning, July 18th, in her daughter’s arms. She was born on May 19, 1929 at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, Georgia, to Sergeant J.J. and Montiel Brown Strickland. At age four, Betty’s family moved to Dayton, Texas, living with her beloved grandma, Mom Belle. When Betty was 6, her mom married McBroom Vandiver Smith (Big Poppa) following a divorce. While Betty loved Big Poppa, her grief at being separated from her biological father was channeled into creative pursuits, including sewing, painting, piano and even poetry at a young age.
After graduating from Dayton High School, Betty completed two years at Sam Houston College. Then, she worked for the Texas Department of Corrections, where she met her future husband, Lloyd James Kersh, who was completing a research project for Sam Houston State. Betty’s passing on July 18th was the culmination of 70 years of marriage.
As a wife and young mother of three, Betty was an excellent seamstress, cook, and mother. She even learned how to make hats, and was so proficient her teacher had her teach others. She modeled them on television! In addition to her responsibilities at home, she was a crackerjack secretary and typist. She wrote poetry as a child, and continued to grow in her skill, becoming a noted poet with published works. She was President of the Houston Poetry Society in the 1970’s, and when the family moved from Bellaire to Cypress, Texas, cofounded Poets Northwest, which became a Chapter of the Poetry Society of Texas, where she remained active into her 80’s.
In addition, Betty excelled at painting, particularly oil painting. She loved flowers, especially roses, and her telephone message for years stated “I’m out painting roses.” She taught oil painting lessons at home, then had to stop when she found out she would have to buy extra insurance to continue, and started teaching oil painting lessons at Cypress Creek Christian Community Center. Betty’s students used only primary colors to learn to mix any color and painted on brown paper bags!
At a young age, Betty took piano lessons; following her teacher’s assessment that she had no talent, and refused to teach her. Betty went home and taught herself to play. She always wished she could go back and tell that teacher that she learned to play the piano well enough that she played at church! She also taught herself to play the organ, and played both until she retired at age 89.
Betty became a Christian at a young age by accepting Jesus Christ as her personal savior and spent her life in development of her spiritual relationship with her Lord. Betty loved studying scripture, in particular passages relating to the Tabernacle. She would often be found asleep in bed with a map of the Tabernacle laying on her stomach. Betty’s family is comforted by the knowledge that she is experiencing the fulfillment of the Tabernacle’s promise—the dwelling place of God.
In addition to her parents, Betty was proceeded in death by her beloved sister Doris LaMar Ballard and her great-grandson Roane Alan Nelson. She is survived by her husband, Lloyd James Kersh, her three children, James Earl Kersh (Cheryl Sheffield), Brenda Dawn Kersh Nelson (Brit Nelson), Jeffery Alan Kersh (Joyce Kinsey), six grandchildren, and 16 great-grandchildren. Also mourning her loss are many nieces, nephews, cousins, and MANY friends. Betty wanted also to thank Harriett Payne, her beloved caretaker, for her love and care of both her and Lloyd. Betty was an amazing woman, who used every bit of her God-given talent to the maximum. Her home going is a huge loss to those of us left behind.
Betty will be buried in a private ceremony in Bethlehem Cemetery in Brenham, Texas. A public memorial service will be held at Westway Baptist Church 11027 Perry Road, Houston, Texas, 77064) at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 21, 2022. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested contributions in Betty’s memory to Samaritan’s Purse, PO Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607, https://www.samaritanspurse.org.