On September 28, 1949, the constellations took on a different form when Betty Jean McNeely, a star, was born signifying the entry of love, joy, peace and happiness in the family and house of Henry McNeely, Sr. and Amy Poellnitz McNeely in Bessemer, Alabama. Betty was the fifth child of nine children born to Henry and Amy McNeely.
Betty confessed faith in Jesus Christ at an early age. She became a lifelong and faithful member of Allen Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church under the pastorate of the late Reverend George W. Scott. She was a member of Sunday School, Young People Department, and Progressive Christian Women Society at Allen Temple.
Betty attended school in the Jefferson County School system. She was a proud graduate of Robertstown Elementary School and Brighton High School. Additionally, while still in high school she was awarded a scholarship to enroll in Bishop College of Dallas, Texas after graduation. While at Bishop College, in the Spring of 1970, Betty pledged and was initiated into Delta Sigma Theta’s Delta Omega Chapter. On May 8, 1972, Bishop College conferred it’s Bachelor of Science Degree to Betty.
Betty met Willie when she was in the Eighth Grade and Willie was in the Ninth Grade. They referred to each other as “Baby”. On May 29, 1971, at Allen Temple, Betty married the love of her life, Willie Lee Duff, Sr. To their union two children were born: Coquesa Jeneen and Willie Lee, Jr. (Bud).
Willie and Betty decided to continue to worship at their respective churches during their marriage. Coquesa and Bud attended and joined Allen Temple with Betty.
In 1975, she earned and was conferred by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the Master of Art Degree in Education. Betty was an instructor, administrator and program director at UAB for more than thirty (30) years until she retired in 2002. During her tenure at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Betty served as advisor for Delta Sigma Theta’s Iota Lambda Chapter. While an instructor, Betty would inform her students that she could teach the course material either to share what she knew or to show them how much she knew. She informed them that she had chosen to share what she knew. She desired not to crush, overwhelm or oppress her students by what she knew, but to share what she knew. She believed that the best things in life, are those that when shared, multiply.
Betty was preceded in death by her husband, Willie Lee Duff, Sr.; parents, Henry and Amy McNeely; her brother, Eddie McNeely; her sister, Joe Ann McNeely Williamson; in-laws, Northern Duff; Lucy and Jack Jones; sister-in-law, Betty Jean Duff Hill Gray and brother-in-law, Larry Crowder.
She leaves to cherish and to fulfill her good works and name: her daughter and son-in-law, Coquesa and Alex Moore; her son, Willie Lee Duff, Jr.; two grandsons, Jalen and Jared Moore; sisters, Lucille McNeely Duncan, Pearleen McNeely King and Juanita McNeely Paige; brothers, Henry McNeely, Jr., Dennis (DeChaun) McNeely and the Reverend Jerry Wayne McNeely; two brothers-in-law, Jack Duff and Northern (Patricia) Duff; a sister-in-law, Luvenia Gaines and a host of nieces, nephews, great nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
As one of Betty’s last journal entries she wrote: “Faith is not about everything turning out okay. Faith is about being okay, no matter how things turn out.”
Her legacy and good name continues and shall continue through those who love her and her God.
The work she has done and the faith she had, indeed, speaks for her.