By JB Clark
TUPELO – Friends described Betty Montgomery as an active and ever-improving person, and part of that was her usual early-morning walk.
While on that walk Thursday at about 5:40 a.m., she was hit by a vehicle near the intersection of Lakeshire and Allyson Drives in her neighborhood in north Tupelo.
Montgomery, 64, was transported to North Mississippi Medical Center, where she died later in the morning.
Police have a person of interest in custody and expect to press charges today.
Montgomery was always interested in education and improvement and friends say that served her well in her career. She spent 10 years, from 1982 until 1992, in the Tupelo Public School District and then 18 years at Itawamba Community College where she retired in 2010.
Jessica Vaughn first encountered Montgomery 17 years ago as a student in an ICC English class and then again through her ministry at St. James Catholic Church where Montgomery was active.
“I had an appreciation for her then and now as an adult even more so,” Vaughn said. “She was sassy and spunky and didn’t mind telling anyone how she saw something. She was also a gifted intellectual who would do anything she needed to provide educational materials to the children here at church.”
Bob Monroe remembers Montgomery as a sweet woman who went out of her way to help his late wife through her final years.
“My wife was found to have cancer in 1993 and her oncologist was Dr. Chas (Charles Montgomery, Betty Montgomery’s husband),” Monroe said. “Those last years were very difficult and she continued to try to teach and wanted to teach and Betty was so sweet and kind. She would pick Marilyn up and carry her to ICC with her so she wouldn’t have to drive. When they would finish in the afternoon, (Betty) would drive Marilyn to Chas’ office for her chemo treatments. She was such a smart lady and went out of her way to try to be especially kind to my late wife.”
Lee Oswalt, a fellow member of St. James, met Montgomery at the Loyola Institute for Ministry Extension where they were taking classes.
“She’s a unique intellectual,” Oswalt said. “Highly intelligent but the most down-to-earth real person I’ve met. I loved her to death. She had an endearing way of talking. Just listening to her you would learn.”
Oswalt said she had a great love for her family, her faith and her family-of-faith and loved to brag about her four children – Patrick, Charles, Katie and Ann Elizabeth – and two grandchildren – Ann Luckett Montgomery and Cal Montgomery.
She shared her favorite author, Flannery O’Connor, with Oswalt who said she sees Montgomery’s personality and blunt honesty in O’Connor’s work.
After retiring from ICC, Montgomery pursued further education at Loyola University where she facilitated in the LIMEX program.
She also became a certified master gardener.
“Betty exhibited a real zest for learning,” said Susan McGukin of the Mississippi State Extension Service in Lee County. “She was a model of what a retiree should be in their community.”
Ken Bishop, communications division chair and Montgomery’s former co-worker at ICC, said her enthusiasm was easily spread.
“She definitely was a scholar and she had a contagious laughter,” he said. “You knew she was present before you saw her in a room. She was just a down-to-earth good friend.”
She had a Ph.D. and master’s degree in English.
This is the first pedestrian fatality in Tupelo this year. The latest was 2010, according to city-data.com.