On October 21, 2023, Walmart lost its most loyal customer, Betty Hoke Sheppard, the iconic “Smiley Face” and greeter extraordinaire. Not to be confused with the yellow smiley face of price rollbacks -though she was a glowing, round, 4’10” animated display of excellence. Eye level with the shopping cart she offered compliments and encouragement to the most unexpecting individual in every aisle of the store. Every person was greeted with “Hey there beautiful”- regardless of how they looked or how many teeth they had; Betty offered the warmest expression of a listening ear and a kind word. She should have been on Walmart’s payroll because she excelled at engaging every employee in her plight of getting a box of Cheerios, mandarin orange fruit cups, and cartons of Yoo-hoo from the third shelf- just out of reach for her short stature. She shopped while sharing the gospel of Jesus and was never ashamed to pray for people- even if it was in the middle of the produce section or at the check-out line.
Betty was born on April 25, 1932, in the back woods of Caldwell West Virginia to Cecil and Nellie Hoke. She was seventh among her siblings- Delbert, George, Howard, Arnold, Edward, Orphia, Norma Jean, Thelma, and her “beautiful baby brother James”. She was quite an entertainer, developing her tap dancing skills when she was hospitalized for treatment for rickets. She danced right out of those leg braces and went on to make her debut performing for local radio stations and area churches. She said she found Jesus at the age of seven and that she loved God her whole life. She met the love of her life, Alvin, at the Appalachian Pentecostal Holiness Camp Meeting and said he was the only man she ever had eyes for- though being married for 70 years, likely there were times when she removed the love goggles and gave Alvin some glares and stink eye stares.
Betty and Alvin never had a lot of money or material things, but they were blessed with six children- Queenie, Angela, Alvin, Joey, Sonja, and Misty and they made sure to take them to church and teach them about Jesus. The kids learned early on that neither rain nor sleet, nor snow would cancel a service, and pretending to be sick in an attempt to stay home just led to more time spent at the altar waiting on God’s divine healing. Betty wanted all her children and grandchildren to serve God- actually, she wanted everyone to become preachers. This way she could be certain to spend eternity in heaven with them. When her son Joey was called to preach- she was so proud- and she was his biggest fan and made sure he knew he was “the Best” and made it known to everyone. She was the “Amen- preach on” corner in every one of his services-She did however sing the praise of Pastor Marcus and told him a time or two that he was the “2nd Best”.
Betty was an entrepreneur- creating income by leveraging her beloved chickens, marketing what she called “anointed eggs”, praying over each one to ensure a “Holy yolk” that would either convict the partaker of their sins or bless the Christian abundantly- and she covered the cartons with scriptures for those who needed God’s word. Her daughter Sonja loves those chickens just as much-encouraged Betty in her collection- buying her more every time they visited Rural King. Betty frequented thrift stores, yard sales, and Goodwill, buying brass trinkets and baby dolls. She coined the term “GW fashion” and her children walked the runway- sometimes mismatched but always in style.
Betty loved to eat out with her family- chicken and dumplings was her favorite with the exception of the 4 piece KFC thigh obsession she requested on a daily basis for months- often she threw a tantrum when she was unable to get anyone to bring her some. Many Sundays after church Betty would fix dinner for her entire family. She would gather the kids around the table and let them assist in making bread, giving them a ball of dough-most of which was dropped on the floor and or eaten before it ever made it to the oven. But she somehow fed the multitudes with an array of delicious foods and the melt-in-your-mouth yeast rolls, bread, biscuits, cakes, and donuts. Her son Alvin carried on the biscuit-making tradition and quite possibly mastered it.
Everyone knew of Betty’s love of God and if you didn’t, you would if you ever crossed paths with her. She whistled a tune everywhere she went and played the piano with anointing – despite never having a single lesson. In the latter years conversing with Betty was like having a vocal showdown or rather a verbal wrestling match- often all the hand gestures and enunciating would exhaust one long before Betty was able to make out what was being discussed. Looking back, when her hearing started declining-we should have invested in a Megaphone. During church, Betty would become so involved in worship that she sang loud- very loud and at times she failed to realize she was singing off-key and her angelic-like melody became more like a symphony of squawking pigeons. But those who knew Betty knew her singing was a deep expression of her relationship with God and the beauty was not in the sound but in the act of worship.
Betty was known as the lady in red- not to be confused with the “scarlet harlot” of the Bible- She was a godly woman, who loved red as much as she loved Alvin, and he was the only man she ever loved. She wore red every day and accessorized with heels and a big red purse filled with the necessities of looking and feeling good for the Lord: a tub of Ponds Cold Cream (she never looked her age), mint flavored Rolaids (for the belly afflictions of the righteous but also an accepted alternative for chewing gum church mishaps), bottled water (for quenching thirst and for the unexpected baptism), ketchup packets and sugar cubes (snacks for low blood sugar resulting from missed lunches when the morning service turned into evening worship); panty hose (in case of stepping on said ketchup packets, soiling the undergarment of praise or for replacing the holy pair snagged from jumping pews when the Spirit hit), a Ziplock bag of coins weighing 5lbs (so all the kids had money to put in the offering), a hairbrush and bobby pins (for repositioning hairdos soaked with anointing oil and mis-styled from the laying of hands in prayer) and a set of 25 random keys- one for the car and 24 others that we are still trying to figure out what they go to.
Betty was a walking miracle, and she would be the first to tell you of the numerous times she was pulled from death’s grip and how miraculous it was when God showed up just in time to confound the doctors. Her medical record was a testament to the Great Physician’s healing powers, as modern medicine could not bring anyone back from what she encountered. She made it a point to tell everyone that her youngest daughter was her doctor…”She is the Best …My Beautiful Doctor Misty Spring Queen” but she also would rave and sing the praises of her PCP, Dr. Charles Judy- who truthfully was “The Best”.
When Betty wasn’t dragging her kids to church, she was being dragged by her kids to the creek with a jug of water, a big ole Bible, and a bag of sugar. Lots of years were spent on the riverbanks and in the woods, building forts and picking tea berries. Despite being a God-fearing woman-she encouraged some mischief in her day- but in her defense being stuck on a riverbank with a bunch of kids and defenseless minnows justified the many times she encouraged making loud joyful noises, baptizing one another in the water and setting the captive minnows free- all so she could obtain her deliverance from Alvin’s overnight fishing expeditions. She encouraged sewing lessons on the waterbed- as the needle holes and water leaks that occurred during the lesson meant getting rid of the secretly hated waterbed Alvin bought. Betty’s love of wildflowers landed her on the Endangered Lady Slipper’s Most Wanted List- created by her eldest daughter Queenie- the God-fearing, Devil Stompin’, nature-loving woman who specialized in the mass production of beautiful babies (7 daughters) and breast milk. Mom was feisty and spiteful- she dug up those slippers every time Queenie turned her back. Today knowing that mom is sitting in a field of flowers and likely having a vast supply of Lady Slippers of her very own, brings comfort to her entire family.
Betty’s belief in sparing the rod and spoiling the child wavered as she aged. She became more of an activist- preventing many backseat hairbrush disciplinary actions and she became a major protester of the Clean Your Plate movement- Of course, this was only after being subjected to backseat brush battles meant for the grandkids and encountering the projectile vomiting that accompanied the “eat everything on your plate” discipline.
We were greatly blessed to learn many valuable lessons from Betty during her 91 years, among them: God is Good, all the time. Some things should never wait until tomorrow: I love you, I’m sorry, and giving your heart to Jesus because tomorrow may never come. Say your prayers and keep adding names so your loved ones will stay with you a little longer. Always be willing to help someone in need-Jesus didn’t say to question their motives first, he just said to do it unto the least of them. Eating Rolaids isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Don’t be wasteful- you never know when you might be lacking or find yourself in a place of need.
Betty leaves behind a collection of life lesson reminders- Her Bibles, thousands of hand-written prayers, scriptures, and devotions, an array of card-making supplies (magazine clippings, beads, paper, and glue sticks), a stockpile of Rolaids, extra pantyhose, water jugs and a collection of Hardee’s gravy biscuit containers, KFC cardboard boxes, paper cups and mashed potato bowls with lids. She leaves behind a collection of precious metals- aluminum, silver, brass, and copper-Her meticulously hand-washed recyclable treasures consisting of Friskies cat food cans, soda cans, figurines, trinkets, pots, pans, and mismatched silverware- all sorted and compiled in Hefty reinforced black designer bags and stored in steel enforced cans. Among her inheritance are 2,433 dolls-porcelain, plastic, big and small. Some talk, or walk, some dance, and some cry, some are ugly and some are downright frightening- But just like every person she encountered in this life- Betty loved them all.
Betty Hoke Sheppard is survived by her children: Queenie & Larry Shelor, Angela & Bobby Overstreet, Alvin II & Sharon Sheppard, Sonja Martin, Brian Martin, Misty & Christopher Queen; Grandchildren: Shona & Troy Farmer, Winona, & Keith Linkous, Leona & Dan Alexander, Keona & Rodney Mobley, Niona & Kurt Nester, Halona & Travis David, Annona Shelor & CJ Hunter, Jamie Witt, Angel & Keith Turner, Jessica & Larry Doss, Denise and Michael Mills, Alvin Sheppard III &Andrea Miller, Malieta Sheppard, Samuel A. Sheppard; Chandra, Foster & Zach Sheppard, Simeon & Lydia Sheppard,Caitlin Brown, Matthew Martin and Sierra Queen; Great-Grand Children: Kalla & Nick Harris, Shriah & Dustin Edwards, Stephen & Rachael Marshal, Shikinah and Josh Bain, Karsyn, Kasey & Raven Mobley, Oliver Nester, Cooper & Roasaleigh David, Micheal, Alex, & Abby Witt, Holly & Cody Eure, Daniel Smith, Nathaniel and Skyler Smith, Brooke Smith, Brett & Hannah Smith, Christina Miller & Jeremy Queen, Falisha Miller & Alan Huff, Phillip & Adrianna Miller, Daniel Miller, Maggie Miller, Montana Miller, Skyler Helms, Isaiah & Shiloh Tindell, Rowan Brown; Samuel M. Sheppard; Great-Great-Grandchildren: Brealynn Miller, Sophia & Riley Bain, Evelyn Marshal, Alan Huff. Siblings: James & Phyllis Hoke, Thelma Hoke. Betty was also preceded in death by her Brothers: Delbert, George, Arnold, and Edward Hoke, Sister: Orphia Pitzenbarger; and her Granddaughters Alexis Smith, Brielynn Mills, and Megan Sheppard.
Services will be held at The Fairlawn Church of God (7858 Peppers Ferry Blvd Fairlawn, Va 24141). Visitation is from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Service begins promptly @ 5 pm. Flowers and condolences can be sent directly to the church. Monetary donations can be made in lieu of flowers and will be used to reduce the excess burden of medical debt and burial expenses.
Online condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.seaglefuneralhome.com Arrangements by Seagle Funeral Home, Pulaski. 540-980-1700