Burton was buried in the 280-year-old Hat Creek Presbyterian Church cemetary in Brookneal, Virginia, her family’s church. She traveled to Brookneal regularly as they were growing up, said DeWitt Burton. As a child, Betty had sung duets in that church — her aunt Lucille Carey was the organist — with her lifelong friend Martha Foster Hopkins, “and Betty had a nice singing voice. Me, I could usually remember most of the words and kind of carry the alto,” Hopkins said. “I’m just glad there are no recordings of us.”
The two girls met in third grade, when Betty came to live with her aunt and uncle in Brookneal. Betty’s parents were divorced — her father had joined the U.S. Air Force and her mother didn’t think she could take care of Betty properly, so she went to live with her father’s sister and her husband, Norman Carey. Hopkins said she and Betty were always together, but there was no question that “she was the leader and I was the follower.” She was outgoing and “book smart.”
In high school, the girls waved pompons and led chants on the basketball court as cheerleaders. They went to square dances at the Brookneal community center and swam in Hat Creek and freshwater ponds. They each had boyfriends galore in high school. And when Betty enrolled in the nursing program at Lynchburg General Hospital, Martha did as well.
During the year-round, three-year program, they learned “to do everything, from giving meds and baths, to doing IVs and handling charts. The two young women finished the program in 1958. Photos show them in the nursing uniform of the day — a starched white bib over a blue dress, with a white cap, white hose and white shoes.
“We kept in touch, and were on the phone at least once a month, for 45 minutes to an hour every conversation,” Hopkins said. “And we visited in each other’s homes.”
After she retired, Burton worked with friends to rescue abandoned cats and get them sprayed or neutered. But even while she was still working, Burton was saving cats, said her colleague Debbie Cowley. Someone would have spotted a mama cat and kittens under a bridge, “and Betty would go out there on her lunch hour and find those cats and get them spayed and into a shelter.”