Cover photo for Betty  Jo  Carruthers's Obituary
Betty  Jo  Carruthers Profile Photo
1929 Betty 2022

Betty Jo Carruthers

January 7, 1929 — May 27, 2022

Betty Jo Armstrong was born on January 7, 1929. She grew up in Winnsboro, South Carolina and the surrounding rural area. She was the first child and only daughter of Louise Coon Armstrong and Matthew Edwin Armstrong. Betty Jo had two younger brothers and spent most of her childhood around her mother’s eleven brothers and sisters. She attended a one-room schoolhouse where she excelled academically. She often arrived at school on the back of a horse riding behind a favorite uncle. Early on Betty Jo balked at what she perceived as the inequality between boys and girls. She was angered by the fact that her brothers were allowed to walk unchaperoned to the river and spend the day fishing and swimming while she was made to stay home. This desire for independence and following her own path in life would soon take her away from rural South Carolina.


After high school, Betty Jo moved to Rock Hill, South Carolina to attend Winthrop College which was then a women’s college. Here again she excelled both academically and athletically but was almost thrown out of school for posing with some girlfriends in their bathing suits during a campus snowstorm… scandalous! While still a teenager, Betty Jo moved along with a girlfriend to Kingsport, Tennessee to become part of the secretarial pool at Tennessee Eastman Kodak. It was in Kingsport that she spent the next 65 years of her life.


At Eastman Kodak, Betty Jo met and fell in love with Joseph Stutz Carruthers III, a young handsome engineer from Georgia. She remembered going to weekend dances at the local civic center and attending movies followed by milkshakes at the Woolworth’s counter. Joe and Betty Jo were married on September 30, 1950 at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kingsport. The new couple enjoyed participating in productions of the community theater group, going on hikes and picnics, as well as attending concerts and parties. They soon started a family and had three children: Joe, Louise, and Charlotte all born in the 1950s followed by Sarah, a surprise addition born in 1971.  


Besides being a wife and mother, Betty Jo had a passion for art. Early in their marriage her husband gifted her with a small paint set, and she began to teach herself how to paint. This creative outlet would define much of her life in Kingsport. In the 1960s Betty Jo, then often  known as BJ, gathered a small group of local artists who met once a week and called their  gathering Paint In. Here they shared their talents and learned from visiting artists and each other. BJ became an accomplished artist. She won numerous awards for her artwork in oil, acrylic and collage, and even became a member of the prestigious Tennessee Watercolor Society. Later in life she traveled to New York, Washington, Paris and Italy to admire many of the great artworks of the world.  


Betty Jo was honored, along with her husband who she lost to death in 2003, to be a charter member of Saint Timothy’s Episcopal Church. They were active members who taught Sunday School, read scripture during Sunday services and even painted walls and pulled weeds when needed. BJ used her artistic talent to enhance the church by designing and painting altar cloths, banners and other artwork to adorn the sanctuary and building. Her faith was strong. The songs and prayers of the church stayed in her mind and heart and sustained her.  


BJ was a complex and amazing woman. She listened to a wide variety of music including jazz, show tunes, popular songs from all eras, classical music, and of course hymns. BJ loved to dance and get up and move. She enjoyed a good joke and laughed with abandon! Her yard and the flowers that grew there brought her great joy, including a back lot filled with wild daisies. She loved all animals but especially dogs and birds. She fed and identified birds for years. She had a joyful, if not slightly irreverent, personality, and she spoke her truth with few filters.


Betty Jo was a strong and vibrant woman. When dementia took away her ability to live independently, she chose to move to Atlanta to be closer to one of her daughters. Her final years were spent in the loving care of family and many gifted caregivers at Arbor Terrace in Decatur, Georgia. She attended church and Sunday School at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta. She was loved dearly in her final years for the same things that connected her to people throughout her life.


She was preceded in death by her husband of 52 years, Joseph Stutz Carruthers III. She is survived by two brothers: James Edwin Armstrong and Jerry Quentin Armstrong. Her loving family includes four children and their partners: Joe Carruthers (Gena), Louise Hamrick (Charles), Charlotte Jennings (Steve), and Sarah Carruthers (Beth Brock). She is also survived by eight grandchildren: Brad Jennings (Brittany), Catherine Jennings (Karina Copeland), Doug Christensen-Jennings (Meredith), Mary Hamrick Williamson (Matt), Charles Hamrick (Allie), Sally Hamrick Almanza (Adam), Brittany Shafsky (Spencer), and Stephanie Carruthers.  Her five great-grandchildren are: Owen Shafsky, Reece and Charlotte Jennings, Willa Jo Christensen-Jennings, and Daniel Williamson.


The family requests that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made to St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church or the Kingsport Art Guild.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Betty Jo Carruthers, please visit our flower store.


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