Betty Harrell Brownlee

May 3, 1929 — June 5, 2020

Betty Harrell Brownlee

Betty Harrell Brownlee May 3, 1929 – June 5, 2020 Betty Beatrice Harrell was born May 3,1929 in Birmingham, Alabama, the first child of the Rev. Wade Hillman and Elizabeth Audrey (Myers) Harrell. As the daughter of a Presbyterian minister, Betty moved from Birmingham to Port Gibson, Mississippi, and then to Holly Springs, Mississippi. She attended Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia where she studied piano and organ. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in Music and in English Literature. While a student, she started her life-long devotion as a church organist at the East Lake Methodist Church of Atlanta, Georgia for two years. Betty married John Lawrence Brownlee, a native of Calhoun, Georgia and a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology on June 30,1951 in Savannah, Georgia. Betty and John initially lived in Greenville, South Carolina for John’s work. John was called to serve in the Naval Reserve and his service took them to Yorktown and Norfolk, Virginia, and then to Panama City, Florida. The couple moved to Decatur, Alabama in January 1955 when John accepted a job at Monsanto Corporation. Betty continued her church music work at St. John’s Episcopal in 1959 and continued there until September 1970 serving as both Choir Director and Organist. Betty served as the Organist at First Presbyterian Church from January 1972 until August 2019, forty-seven years. She loved sharing her gift and was extremely humbled and blessed to serve her church. Late in her career she often remarked that she still experienced chills each time she accompanied the church congregation voices during favorite hymns. Betty also taught piano lessons for 36 years. Betty joined the Decatur Junior Service League in 1957. At one time she served as Chairperson of the Foreign Language Committee. The committee worked with the Decatur City School System to institute French and Spanish classes in the curriculum; she was very proud of that accomplishment. In addition to her amazing musical talent, she possessed a tremendous capacity to recall and cite classical literature and poetry, and wrote many beautiful poems. She loved gardening. She will be remembered for sharing her musical talents with so many through her lifetime, for her strength of character, quick wit, independence, and love of family. She was preceded in death by her beloved husband, John Lawrence Brownlee, her sons Bruce Creswell Brownlee and John Harrell Brownlee. She is survived by her daughter Amanda Brownlee Rice, son-in-law John Francis Rice, daughters-in-law Susan Neighbors Brownlee (Bruce) and Anita Wathen Brownlee (John), grandsons Daniel Patrick Rice (Samantha Clark Rice) and Jonathan Lawrence Rice (Samantha Koszarek Rice), granddaughter Laurel Brownlee Roberts (Darryl Rob Roberts), great-grandsons Mason Alexander Rice and John Jameson Rice, sister-in-law Rita Joyce Brownlee and brother-in-law John Whisler. Hartselle Heritage Funeral Home of Hartselle, Alabama and Thomas Funeral Home of Calhoun, Georgia are assisting the family. A graveside service will be held Saturday, June 13 with departure at 2 pm (Eastern time) / 1 pm (Central time) from Thomas Funeral Home located at 535 Red Bud Rd NE, Calhoun 30701. The procession will be led to Fain Cemetery in Calhoun. The Rev. Rosemary Rice McMahan will officiate. Please wear a protective mask. In lieu of flowers, the family requests a donation to Betty’s favorite charity, the Presbyterian Home for Children, PO Drawer 577, Talladega, Alabama 35161.
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