Betsey Bush: She was “all in”

Betsey Bush, left, and her stepdaughter Sarah Nuckolls at the opening of the Knoxville Symphony Show House in 2012. Sarah spoke at Betsey’s funeral yesterday.

If you had wanted to merge together all the arts organizations in Knoxville, you could have taken a vote on it yesterday at the memorial service for philanthropist and community enthusiast Betsey Bush.

Leaders of all the major institutions were there at Second Presbyterian Church, from the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Knoxville Opera and the Knoxville Museum of Art to garden and history lovers of every stripe. Betsey loved and supported them all. Nine musicians from the Knoxville Symphony performed during the hour-long service, as did Brenda Goslee on the magnificent Condon Bush Memorial Organ, which Betsey funded after her late husband, canning magnate Condon Bush, passed away in 2003.

“She was all in,” said Rev. Dr. William R. Barron from the pulpit. “She was one of God’s most special servants.”

Betsey Bush and Sarah Nuckolls at the Green Thumb Gala, benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden, in 2011.

Her stepdaughter Sarah Nuckolls spoke of the impact Betsey had on her sister, Rachel, and her. “I am a different person because of Betsey,” she said, mentioning that both she and her sister now are stepmothers themselves. “My sister and I both learned the art of raising another woman’s children from Betsey,” she said.

A review of the Blue Streak from its beginning in 2009 until now demonstrates Betsey Bush’s deep immersion in the community and its cultural organizations. She will be missed at every upcoming gathering.

Click here for a story in the News Sentinel about Betsey’s passing.

My all time favorite picture of Betsey! She had just tasted a dirty martini featuring a “liquid olive” at a 2016 Summer Supper benefiting Knox Heritage at John Trotter’s historic home.

Betsey gets a hug from Cindi DeBusk earlier this year during a fundraiser at Blackberry Farm for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

Actor John Cullum, left, with Betsey and Mary and Rick Johnson at R.T. Lodge in 2015 at a benefit for Clarence Brown Theatre.

Two garden lovers. Betsey and former University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek in his west Knoxville garden at a dinner benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

At that same event, from left, Sandra Butler, Jackie Wilson, Ilene Cheek and Betsey.

Jim Haslam and Betsey in 2013 at the home of Caesar and Dorothy Stair for a party benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

Betsey and Vicki Williams Baumgartner at that same event.

Betsey with violin star Rachel Barton Pine at a 2010 Knoxville Symphony League Elegant Dining event in Betsey’s home.

Joan Cronan, left, and Cheryl Massingale with Betsey at Evening Under the Stars benefiting the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra at Sherri Lee’s house in 2013.

Lee Ley, left, and Jane Creed with Betsey in 2012 at an Elegant Dining event at Betsey’s house.

From left, Betsey, Daniel Meyer, Mary Persin and Rachel Ford at that same party.

Dorothy Stair and Betsey at last year’s Green Thumb Gala at the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

Betsey and Sherri Lee at the East Tennessee History Center for a 2013 surprise party for the unveiling of a portrait of Natalie Haslam.

Betsey with Sandi Burdick at last year’s Hats in Bloom event at the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

Betsey with Rick and Mary Johnson last year at a Knoxville Symphony League Elegant Dining event at the home of Randy and Jenny Boyd.

Caroline Smith and Betsey at last year’s Evening Under the Stars at Sherri Lee’s house benefiting the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.

Betsey with Dr. Michelle Brewer at the 2013 Summer Solstice Supper at the Knoxville Botanical Garden.


Betsey with Barbara Arant, center, and Mary Johnson at the 2015 Blackberry Farm event benefiting the Knoxville Symphony.

Betsey with Suzanne Carriere, center, and Jody Rash at the Knoxville Symphony League annual luncheon last year.

The pansies in her brooch look so real because they WERE!

Betsey with Angela Pugh at a party at Nazzy and Hash Hashemian’s house last year benefiting Random Acts of Flowers.

Betsey, in front, exploring Savage Garden in Fountain City with Sandra Butler in 2013. Behind them are Jennie and Bert Ritchie.

Betsey with Brian Campbell of the Knoxville Botanical Garden at that same event, which benefited the Botanical Garden.

Love those purses! That’s what Mintha Roach, left, Sherri Lee and Betsey were discussing at 2013’s Symphony in the Park benefiting Ijams Nature Center.

From left, Betsey, Dr. Michelle Brewer, Jackie Wilson, Sarah Nielson and Mary Johnson at the same event.

Betsey, left, with Woody Besozzi and Carol Beilharz at the 2015 Opera Ball at the Knoxville Museum of Art.

From left, Sheila and Chris Hill, Michael Combs, Cathy Hill, Mary Johnson, Mark Hill and Betsey at a 2013 party at Kreis Beall’s home benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

From left, Lane Hays, Jackie Wilson and Betsey at the 2015 Great Gardens Party benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden. It was held at Chip and Jeanie Johnson’s house at the very end of Houser Road.

Ladies in black. From left, Mary Johnson, Ann Furrow and Betsey at Blackberry Farm in 2014 for a Knoxville Symphony fundraiser.

Betsey with Jack and Sara Rose at the University of Tennessee Gardens benefit in 2014.

From left, Janet Testerman Crossley, Caroline Smith and Betsey at 2015’s Evening Under the Stars at Sherri Lee’s house.

Betsey with Sherri Lee at a 2012 party Sherri hosted to benefit the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

Betsey with John and Sandra Butler at the 2015 Symphony Ball at Cherokee Country Club.

Betsey with Diana Samples, center, and Willene Chalmers at a 2012 party benefiting Knox Heritage at Westwood.

Betsey with Jackie Wilson, center, and Jeanine Brogan at a 2011 Elegant Dining event at Karen and Harvey White’s house.

Betsey at the 2012 Opera Ball.

From left, Jane Venable, Betsey, Sandra Butler, Donie Green and Stacy Moody at the 2013 Opera Ball.

Joan and Victor Ashe present Betsey with a “garden lady” statue they bought in Poland. The occasion was a 2011 party Betsey hosted at her home for donors to the Knoxville Botanical Garden.

Here’s Betsey with John and Sandra Butler at the same party.

From left, Mary Johnson, Betsey, Rick Johnson, Toni Lawler, Gary Sperl and Jon Lawler at a 2012 party at former Knoxville Symphony Music Director Lucas Richman’s home to celebrate the start of the season.




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30 Responses to Betsey Bush: She was “all in”

  1. Alan Carmichael, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:27 pm said:

    Betsey was a truly nice person who cared about her community. Sarah Nuckolls delivered a wonderful eulogy to her stepmom at the service. Betsey would have enjoyed the performances of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra players and the organist.

  2. Charley Sexton, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:30 pm said:

    She was a fantastic person. I had the pleasure of spending some time with her during a photo shoot at her home years ago. The brief conversation we had was memorable and impactful. Truly a Knoxville treasure.

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:30 pm said:

    Alan: This is a huge loss to our community. She was kind and generous — and fun! Miss her so much already.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:31 pm said:

    Charley: You are so right.

  5. Rachel Ford, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:35 pm said:

    My heart is very heavy this week. Words will not do her justice. She was such a lovely person and the Ford family will always treasure the special pizza nights we had with Betsey at Sergeant Pepperoni’s.

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:40 pm said:

    Rachel: I am so glad your children got to have that special relationship with Betsey. They will always remember it, I’m sure.

  7. Mickey Mallonee, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:40 pm said:

    She was a lady in every sense of the word. Will miss her sweet smile.

  8. David Butler, on July 7th, 2017 at 1:43 pm said:

    Thanks Cynthia–lovely tribute to a lovely person. A great loss for Knoxville.

  9. Mary Thom Adams, on July 7th, 2017 at 2:05 pm said:

    Thanks for this tribute to Betsey. She was a lovely lady.

  10. Mary Ellen Brewington, on July 7th, 2017 at 2:34 pm said:

    Cynthia Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos and memories of Betsey. She was one of kind and such a blessing to our community. Her eyes always had that wonderful sparkle of joy. We are all better people because of her example and influence.

  11. Cindy Hassil, on July 7th, 2017 at 2:35 pm said:

    I wasn’t able to attend the services yesterday, but have been thinking so much about Betsey. She was warm and wonderful. I’m sorry I didn’t get to know her as well as some, but I am thankful I had the pleasure of knowing her, and I am forever grateful for all the good she did for this community. Thank you for the photos and article, Cynthia.

  12. Brian Salesky, on July 7th, 2017 at 2:35 pm said:

    We all walked under the comforting, smiling umbrella of dear Betsey. We and generations to follow will continue to be blessed by her generosity of spirit, friendship, inspiration, and visionary financial support which has empowered so many in our community to accomplish so much. I know we will all endeavor to honor Betsey and her great legacy.
    Brian Salesky
    Executive Director and Conductor
    Knoxville Opera

  13. Jackie Wilson, on July 7th, 2017 at 2:40 pm said:

    I miss her so much already. Your photos bring back wonderful memories of happy times together.

  14. Deborah Sams, on July 7th, 2017 at 3:09 pm said:

    These pictures are a testament to a good life, well lived. What a wonderful lady. Your photos and stories are important in recording lives and happenings in Knoxville. Thank you for sharing your talent with us.

  15. Sandra and John Butler, on July 7th, 2017 at 3:35 pm said:

    Knoxville will miss Betsey dearly. She was a cheerful giver. . . to those in need, to health related organizations, to churches, to children and to the arts she loved. . .because she could give and because she wanted to do so. I value our 37 years of friendship and treasure the fun times we had together. We are left with memories that can never be taken away, but with an ache in our hearts.

  16. Annette Winston, on July 7th, 2017 at 3:39 pm said:

    Beautiful tribute, Cynthia.

  17. Becky Paylor, on July 7th, 2017 at 4:11 pm said:

    The service yesterday was all Betsey. The beautiful pieces hand selected by her and performed so perfectly by the KSO musicians, the amazing tribute to her and all
    Step- Mothers by her step daughter Sarah, and the intimate sharing of her moments by her Pastor, Dr. William Barron. Those of us who had only known Betsey a few short years felt all the love as if having known her always. A truly memorable service for a truly memorable lady.

  18. James R Martin, on July 7th, 2017 at 4:34 pm said:

    What a wonderful tribute to Betsy.
    A great lady who did much for many.
    Jim Martin

  19. Sharon pryse, on July 7th, 2017 at 5:16 pm said:

    Mox, thank you for the wonderful pictures and words. I have circulated to the family.q

  20. Leslie Testerman, on July 7th, 2017 at 5:23 pm said:

    WONDERFUL photos of an absolutely WONDERFUL person in every way! We will miss her so much, and, her legacy will live on for years to come. Thank you sooo much for sharing. Her memorial service was an outstanding tribute to her!

  21. Gay Lyons, on July 7th, 2017 at 5:51 pm said:

    What a lovely tribute to a special lady. I will miss her.

  22. Sherri Gardner Howell, on July 7th, 2017 at 7:16 pm said:

    Oh Cynthia, what a treasure trove of memories and snapshots of some of the passions that made her such an incredible woman and community leader! Thank you so much from someone who didnt know her that well but so appreciated and liked her.

  23. Cynthia Moxley, on July 7th, 2017 at 9:45 pm said:

    Hey, everybody: Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. It is a tribute to Betsey that so many people feel so strongly about her. There will be a big hole to fill on the Blue Streak because she was so involved in so many good causes.

    Mary Ellen: What you said about the sparkle in her eyes was so true. It showed in all the pictures!

  24. Susan Arp, on July 7th, 2017 at 10:04 pm said:

    Cynthia – you certainly captured Betsey’s sweet and joyful spirit with this tribute and photo timeline. She was such a great friend and supporter to so many of our Knoxville’s arts and cultural organizations. It was such a pleasure working with her and the East TN Historical Society as she served on the Society’s board and their Foundation board. Betsey was the epitomy of a true philanthropist giving her time, her sharp intellect and her resources to them all. We all treasure these memories of Betsey and will miss her so.

  25. Marsha Grieve, on July 8th, 2017 at 12:21 pm said:

    It was wonderful seeing all the photos of Betsey that you shared with us, Cynthia. We have known Betsy since the 80’s when she was our son Luke’s Sunday School teacher (when he was 5). He was a somewhat shy kid, but she always seemed to enjoy Luke and praised him a lot – which meant a lot to us at the time. We have been aware over the years of her generosity and interest in so many great organizations. She was a very special lady!

  26. Alice Mercer, on July 8th, 2017 at 6:43 pm said:

    It is such an honor to have known Betsey and your tribute, Cynthia, is right on target. Mary Ellen’s note about Betsey’s eyes make me smile and rang true absolutely. She was a significant part of the Women’s Fund Board and her advice and counsel will be missed.

  27. Diana Salesky, on July 9th, 2017 at 3:59 pm said:

    Cynthia, this was such a beautiful tribute to a truly amazing woman. Whenever I saw Betsey at an event, she had a way of making me feel that she was overjoyed to see me. And I know she made everyone feel that exact same way. She was gracious and kind, and I am certainly better for having known her.

  28. Natalie Haslam, on July 10th, 2017 at 9:40 am said:

    Jim and I are devastated to lose a good friend and such a wonderful supporter of the arts in our community. We heard how special the funeral was and we were so sorry to be so far away. Thank you, Cynthia for bringing us the great pictures of Betsy’s many passions. What an example she set for all of us. Natalie and Jim

  29. Cynthia Moxley, on July 10th, 2017 at 10:02 pm said:

    Thanks so much, everyone, for your comments. Betsey was so, so special.

  30. Pingback:A salute to Betsey Bush - Arts865

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