Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Bettye Lee Melton, 91, Orange

Bettye Lee Davis Melton, who loved music, nature, art, and serving her community, passed away at the age of 91 at her home in Orange surrounded by her immediate family.

She lived in Orange for more than 60 years and after volunteering as a leader for her daughters in Camp Fire groups, later became assistant director, and art director at Camp Otanya. She loved the kids and is remembered by many. During her years at Camp Fire's Camp Otanya, she was in charge of hand arts and numerous women who are now grandmothers have kept the plaster figures they painted from the molds she made. Even in recent years, she and her family enjoyed singing the silly and sentimental songs they sang at Camp Otanya.

She was a member of the Woman's Club of Orange, and was a real estate agent for several years. After her retirement, she worked as a volunteer at different local non-profit organizations. For many years, she could be found cooking and serving meals at the First Presbyterian Church Soup Kitchen, where she became known as "The Garlic Bread Queen." She made sure everyone got all the garlic bread they wanted, so no one would be hungry.

She volunteered at Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, where she was able to continue her love of nature and gardening in a setting where educating children was important. She greatly enjoyed it and the people she met became friends.

Bettye was born in Brownsville, Texas, on February 10, 1932, to Clifford Gilmore Davis and Verda Lee (Hays) Davis. She passed away on October 4, 2023, at her home. She was a graduate of Victoria High School and attended Victoria College.

While working at Union Carbide in Victoria, she met John Thomas "Tommy" Melton. The couple enjoyed dancing to Ray Charles, Jivin' Gene, Fats Domino, big bands, and others. They married in 1956 and raised three daughters, Linda, Kathy, and Sandy. The couple passed along their love of music, live and recorded, to their daughters.

Bettye and Tommy also loved gardening and their yards were full of flowers and unusual plants. Bettye became a Master Gardener and did numerous volunteer projects around Orange County with the group. She loved visiting her family in Hawaii and derived immense pleasure from the natural beauty there. She believed that keeping your fingers in the dirt was a key to life.

Bettye was an ace at strategic games that kept her mind sharp. She had a perfect score on Microsoft Challenge games for numerous years. She was also great at bridge and played couples bridge in the past. She usually beat all of her family at Yahtzee. When her family spent time at the beach, she enjoyed playing Shinny and used her Camp Fire skills with a fire poker stick.

She was an avid reader, book club member, and loved sci-fi, crime-fiction, and novels of many genres. Artistically talented, she was good at many things including sewing, cooking, crafts, and flower arranging. She liked to get with other creative people to paint and draw. Other favorite pastimes included watching old movies and rom-coms with her family.

Bettye, Tommy, and their youngest daughter made local news headlines in the summer of 1980 after they developed boat troubles and were lost in the Sabine River marshlands for three days before being rescued.

Bettye is preceded in death by her loving husband of 55 years, John Thomas Melton, and parents, Clifford and Verda Davis.

She is survived by her daughters, Linda Lee Melton of Lumberton/Hawaii, Kathryn Anne Melton of Deer Park, and Sandy Kay Melton and partner Atta Mendonsa of Waimanalo, Hawaii; grandchildren, Athena Lee Melton, Kai D.K. Melton-Kitagawa and partner Tobey Agauno; great-grandchild, Drew Kaulike Melton Kitagawa; and her beloved Doxie fur babies, Duke and Velvet.

Bettye had a beautiful and pure soul and will be deeply missed. Her daughters, grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, cousins, large loving extended family, and “adopted” families were blessed with the most wonderful mother, aunt, grandmother, caregiver, and friend in the world, and never doubted her love for them.

Visitation with family will be held Saturday, October 14, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Garden District, 7536 Highway 87 North, across from LC-M High School. In lieu of flowers, please consider making an extra donation to your favorite charity in memory of her service to others.

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