Betty Conway

Memorial Service

1:00 pm
Saturday, May 6, 2023
Blackburn's Chapel Methodist Church
3986 Railroad Grade Road
Todd, North Carolina, United States

Obituary of Betty Dawn Conway

Please share a memory of Betty to include in a keepsake book for family and friends.
Betty Miller Conway, 60, joined her ancestors on April 22, 2023. She passed peacefully at her home in Todd, NC, with her family by her side and an army of beloved creatures outside her window. Born November 5, 1962, in Boone to parents Preston and Elizabeth Miller, Betty was an eighth-generation Watauga County native. She grew up on Chestnut Grove Road riding (and occasionally being tossed from) horses, learning how to take care of the many animals in her family's care, and reading books that helped her dream of far-away places. After graduating from Green Valley Elementary School, Watauga High School, and Appalachian State University, Betty moved to Texas, Florida, and eventually Halifax, Nova Scotia with her first husband. In Halifax, she obtained a graduate degree in English from Dalhousie University, where she wrote her dissertation on Anne Tyler while pregnant, standing at the kitchen counter, under the watchful eye of a demanding toddler. After 10 years away she returned to the mountains with two young daughters in tow. She began her teaching career at Appalachian State University's English department, where she fell in love with fellow instructor Walton Conway after meeting over a dictionary definition – a beginning that would please even the most discerning romantic comedy fans. Walton and Betty married in 1997 and completed their family with the addition of one more daughter. Betty continued to teach at Appalachian State for more than 20 years, grading papers in purple or blue (never red). In addition to inspiring her students, she managed the university's literary journal, Cold Mountain Review, and the Hughlene Bostian Frank Visiting Writers Series. She was herself a published author, with several poems and personal essays in publications like Still: the Journal and Anthology of Appalachian Writers. In addition to these more formal works, Betty kept a blog of farm stories ranging from memories of her childhood on the small farm where she grew up to musings about her adult farm life. Her talent for finding beauty in unlikely places fills these charming glimpses into her past and present. Central to Betty's life was the great joy she derived from riding and tending horses, a passion passed down from her father. In 2005 she realized her life-long dream of starting her own horse farm and found her happy place on the back of a Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse named Dakota. The hobby farm soon evolved into a vacation farm, and for fifteen years Betty shared her passion for animal husbandry with countless guests, inspiring their children to yearn for the country. She cared for humans and beasts alike. Abandoned dogs and stray cats that wandered by became Betty's charges. She diligently doctored hooves, treated eye infections, and disguised heartworm pills in hot dogs. And she used many of these veterinary medications to treat her family, since, according to her, they are the exact same as human medications, just not FDA-approved. Those lucky enough to have known her can attest to her gift for making people feel welcomed, heard, and loved. She knew how to make things lovely, whether it was creating the magic of a fairy garden, the perfect towering bouquet of gladiolus, or an elegant cake topped with sugared violets. It is this legacy of nurturing and delight that made it an extra special honor for Betty's family to care for her in her final days with support from Amorem Hospice. Like her second favorite animal, the humble donkey, Betty was strong willed and slow to spook. She lived with cancer for more than 11 years after being told she only had a handful at best. Her family is grateful for this fighting spirit that gave them extra time with her. In her final days, she clung to life ferociously, waiting for and relishing the arrival of the mountain spring. She passed just as her beloved dogwoods flowered. Betty is survived by her husband, Walton, and three daughters: Olivia Bowler (Troy Smith) of Durham, NC, Mary Ellis Bowler of Arlington, VA, and Carolina Conway of many places, as well as one anticipated grandson, due in May, who she did not get to meet on this side. Also surviving are her sister Ann Miller Wilson (Mike) of Fleetwood, NC, her uncle Ernest Miller (Darline) and aunts Margaret Miller and Josephine Miller of Boone, Brenda Baird of Banner Elk, and Jerlene Baird Swift (Jim) of Appling, GA., as well as numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and friends. She will be sorely missed by one clever Old Time Scotch Collie named Piper, six horses, a donkey, a pot-bellied pig, many rabbits, chickens, peafowl, turkeys, and guinea fowl. A host of formerly rescued and well-loved creatures must have run bounding towards her as they saw her coming through the pearly gates. A celebration of life service will be conducted Saturday, May 6, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. in Blackburn's Chapel, Todd. The family will receive friends prior to the services on Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. until the service time. Online condolences may be shared with the family at the website Austin & Barnes Funeral Home and Crematory is serving the Conway family.
Share Your Memory of