Select Page

We’ll miss you, my friend

It started as one of those goofy things you do among friends.

It was May 2007.

The National Genealogical Society Conference was being held in Richmond, Virginia.

And just a few days afterwards a dear friend would be celebrating her 80th birthday.

So, of course, we told everybody — every day — that it was her 80th birthday.

At every meal. At every session. At every vendor booth in the exhibit hall.

Everybody knew that Betty Clay of Texas was turning 80.

Now The Legal Genealogist is not going to tell you that the joke didn’t wear thin for Betty after a couple of days.

But I will tell you that she’d have sooner jumped off a bridge than spoiled the fun her friends were having with the almost-weeklong-celebration.

That’s just who Betty was.

Betty Clay

And it’s that word “was” that hurts this morning.

Here in her long-time home state of Texas.

Here, this morning, as we ready ourselves to celebrate her life… and mourn her loss.

Here where, under sunny skies, we will lay her to rest.

Last week, just weeks short of her 92nd birthday, Betty passed away here in Texas, and her funeral is this morning at the Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth where she worshiped and sang in the choir for many years.

Like many genealogists, I first met Betty online: she’d been one of the sysops — called moderators online these days — of the genealogy discussion group on CompuServe along with Dick Eastman and others.

Online, she was larger than life: smart, funny, insightful and — above all else — helpful. She wanted everybody to understand genealogy and technology as well as she did and worked hard to bring everyone along.

Offline, when I met her for the first time on a Master Genealogist cruise, I found that she was still smart, funny, insightful and helpful. I still regarded her as larger than life. And that despite the fact that she turned out to be maybe five feet tall on the high side and might have tipped the scales at 100 pounds soaking wet in all her clothes.

Born 24 May 1927 in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Joseph Elemuel Hicks and Tressie Mae (Brockinton) Hicks, she’d lived in Texas since 1954, and taught math in the Arlington, Texas, public schools. She was instrumental in building genealogy’s online presence, both on CompuServe and on AOL, and was deeply involved in GenTech — the first group working to integrate technology into genealogy.

Softspoken, all southern charm, full of stories of her beloved Richard, who predeceased her in 1991, and her children Laura and David, grandchildren Brittany, Bryan, Bryant, and Taylor, and great grandchildren Delilah and one known officially as “on the way,” Betty was a delight to all who knew her.

She’s one of the big reasons why I became a genealogy speaker. Because Betty believed in me and encouraged me — the way she believed in and encouraged so many genealogists and so many Texas schoolchildren.

All of us will miss her dearly.

Rest in peace, dear friend.

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “Mourning Betty,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 23 Feb 2019).

Print Friendly, PDF & Email