Celebrating the life of Elizabeth A. Potts
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April 5, 1926 - May 9, 2011
Elizabeth A. Potts, best known to all as Bettye, passed away peacefully on Monday, May 9, 2011 at Elant at Goshen. She was 85.
She was born in Harlem Hospital to Juanita Elizabeth Stewart Polk and Ralph Arthur Polk on April 5, 1926.
She was raised in a musical household. It was her mother’s desire for her to become a concert pianist and Elizabeth showed promise when she auditioned and was accepted to New York’s High School of Music and Art. Elizabeth attended several colleges; South Carolina State, Hunter College and CCNY as a Chemistry major. She was a member of two graduate chapters, of Alpha Kappa Society, President of Jr. Council of Negro Women under Dorothy Height.
Her fluent French gave her the opportunity to obtain a position as a receptionist for the President of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis where she was proud to say she met Doctors Salk and Sabin who perfected the polio vaccine.
Elizabeth also attended the Fashion Institute of Technology for Fashion marketing and Fine Jewelry. She became a buyer for Barbara Moss, Manager for Flahs, Dress Barn and Bradley’s. For thirty years she worked as a fashion coordinator for Helen Morell’s in Masten Lake, NY.
Elizabeth’s last position before retirement was as a Senior Support Specialist in the Support Community Service Employment Program funded by grants for the Office for the Aging and the U.S. Dept. of Labor. She enjoyed this position very much because it gave her the opportunity to help seniors.
Elizabeth was “Volunteer Extraordinaire”, there was hardly a non-profit or charitable organization in the area that did not benefit from her endless work, fundraising and enthusiasm. She was a lecturer for “Dress for Success and Etiquette” BOCES New Windsor and the Academy of Finances for which she received awards. She worked as a model, coordinator and successful producer of fashion shows (Benjamin Gilman’s for 16 years) and fundraisers for many different non-profit organizations. Bettye was very proud to be the first recipient of the “Bobby Lahey Volunteer Award” from Orange County Women of Achievement. She would proudly tell you her children could visit the lobby of the New York Legislature Building and see it recorded that Elizabeth Potts is listed as a Sullivan County Women of Distinction Award. The following are some of the many organizations Elizabeth volunteered for during 85 years of life and her achievements in each: Past President of the Middletown Business and Professional Womens Club; Past Chairperson for the Fresh Air Fund for Middletown and Goshen; Literacy Volunteer of Western Orange Award “Each One Teach One”; former officer and life member of the Bloomingburg Restoration Foundation; Officer and Co-chair of the Middletown/Goshen/Warwick area League of Women Voters. She researched Charter Forms of Government and prepared and edited the “Orange County, Know Your County” booklet. Bettye served 24 years on the advisory board of the Middletown division of the American Cancer Society. She received awards from the Greek Ladies Philoptochos of Middletown; team Orange County Girl Scouts. She was proud of her two sons who received the Boy Scouts of America Life Award and James’ Eagle Scout Award. She served as a 10 year committee member for of the Horton Hospital Auxiliary and worked on and performed in the “High Fever Follies”; she served as a board member of the Southwinds Retirement Home and Middletown Psychiatric Center Association. Bettye worked tirelessly as a member of the Kiwanis Clubs (Middletown Kiwanis Club; and a Charter Member of the Shawangunk Valley Kiwanis Club) for which she received the Distinguished Kiwanian Award. She also received the 2010 American Cancer Society Celebration of Life Award and Proclamation of "Elizabeth Bettye Potts Day” from County Executive Edward Diana. She was nominated by Governor George Pataki and appointed by President George Bush to be Commissioner of Selective Service of Sullivan County. She was also past Vice President of the Middletown NAACP; chairman for six years of the African American Heritage Committee at the Paramount Theater.
The family lived in a large seven bedroom Civil War era home, and life gave her the opportunity to raise many children there; fourteen in all. Elizabeth is survived by her children; Charles E. Potts M.D. and his wife, Marlene of Washington, DC, Theodore A. and Juanamie Potts of Washington, DC, James W. Potts Esq. and his wife, Brenda of Altadena, CA, Lydia Hamlin and her husband, John Russell of Bethlehem, PA, Ralph Potts and his wife, Michelle of Middletown, Zarita F. Mattox and her husband, Larry of Toms River, NJ, Michele DelVecchio and her husband, Robert of Spring Hill, FL, Camille E. Potts and Cecile E. Potts of Richmond, VA. She is also survived by 23 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren and ex-husband, Charles Munroe Potts of Bethlehem, PA. Other survivors of the Stewart family include her Aunt Mae Cora Stewart Peterson of Ft. Worth, TX, John Peterson, Mattie Nell Compton, Jane L. Dawkins, Betty George Otey, Preston Stewart Sr. and his sisters. Besides her parents, Elizabeth was predeceased by her brother, Ralph Elliot Polk of Brooklyn and a special friend, John T. Williams.
Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 13 at Applebee-McPhillips Funeral Home, Inc, 130 Highland Avenue, Middletown, NY. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 14 at Our Lady of the Assumption Church, 17 High Street, Bloomingburg, NY. Cremation will be private at the convenience of the family.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in Bettye’s name may be made to Our Lady of the Assumption Meditation Garden, 17 High Street, Bloomingburg, NY 12721 or to the Cure Pancreatic Cancer, Lustgarten Foundation, 111 Stewart Ave., Bethpage, NY 11714.
Arrangements are under the direction of Applebee-McPhillips Funeral Home, Inc.
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