Betty O’Neal Howard

Published 11:35 am Thursday, December 3, 2020

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Betty O’Neal Howard, a resident of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, passed away peacefully on November 23, 2020. Born in Jackson, Georgia on August 24, 1930, she moved to Middlesboro, Kentucky at the age of nine. Betty was a proud member of the Middlesboro High School Class of 1947. She retired from Middlesboro Commercial Bank after previously working with her husband at Hubbard Lear Insurance Agency. Later, she built and operated the Cumberland Gap Wedding Chapel.

Betty was married to Hugh Asher Howard at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Middlesboro on New Year’s Day 1948 and was a lifelong member of the Harrogate Methodist Church. She felt a part of and at home with all of the local churches, feeling that they all contributed to her spiritual growth along the way.

Betty was known as a strong and independent lady, who was very dedicated to her family, her friends, and her community. She had a clear vision for how anything and everything could be improved and might have taken you to task to convince you that her version of “right” was the best version of “right.” Politics aside, she felt speaking one’s mind even when carrying the minority opinion was an obligation, not an option. Most people respected Betty’s well-thought-out opinions while others felt merely threatened; a position she relished.

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Betty was very active in her Tri-State community both as a volunteer and in elected positions. In addition to organizing numerous class reunions, she served on the Arts Council, as well as serving as a member of The Three States of Cumberland, on the Kentucky Tourism Board, as a Cumberland Gap City Alderman, and as a founder of the President’s Travel Club at the original Commercial Bank (now Community Bank).

Family and friends will remember Betty’s elegance and grace, the way she would hold court at the top of her hill in Cumberland Gap, her prolific letter writing skills, and her homemade pimento cheese. They’ll remember the fashion shows she threw with her granddaughters during their annual summer visits and her legendary cocktail hours. Most of all, they’ll remember Betty as a loving grandmother, a doting mother, a loyal friend, and a fearless woman.

Betty was preceded in death by her husband, Hugh A. Howard; both parents James L. and Mano W. O’Neal; brother James R. O’Neal; nephews BG Knifley Jim O’Neal; niece Twila Lowe; and several dear and close friends. She is survived by her son, Hugh O’Neal (Neal) Howard; granddaughter Sarah Darlene, and her husband, Tom Andrews; and granddaughter Lily O’Neal, and her husband Cooper Hale.

Special thanks to all of the nurses, therapists, and caregivers of Harrogate Amedisys.

Due to the ongoing uncertainty of the COVID-19 Pandemic, a celebration of the life and friendships of Betty Howard have been postponed. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church of Middlesboro, Harrogate United Methodist Church, or the church of your choosing. Donations aside, toast Betty with your favorite whisky and honor her with a few memories