Betty Wallace

Kimple John Verret
December 12, 2023
Willie Mae Douglas
December 12, 2023
Kimple John Verret
December 12, 2023
Willie Mae Douglas
December 12, 2023

Betty Wallace, 96, a native of Oscar, LA and a resident of Houma,LA passed away on Friday, December 1, 2023.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, December 16, 2023 at 11:00 AM at New Rising Sun Baptist Church 230 St. Charles St. Houma, LA  70360

She is survived by two sons, Bruce Rene Wallace, Ezekie Melvin Wallace, III, one daughter, Candice Eileen Wallace Diggs, five grandchildren, one great grandchild, and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

She was preceded in death by her father, Gilbert Nelson, mother, Ezar Elizabeth DeJean, her husband, Ezekiel Melvin Wallace, Jr., two brothers and six sisters.

It is written that a perfect flower must be plucked at the perfect time.  This flower should be planted and nourished with tender loving care.  And so it was, that in the garden of one Gilbert and Ezar Elizabeth DeJean Nelson, grew a bush that bore several roses.  On April 8, 1927, a new blossom appeared.  Young Gilbert and Ezar made certain that this youngest bush was nourished daily.  This bush was a beautiful rosebud, whom they proudly named, “Betty Lou.”   She was the youngest of nine siblings, born in the town of Oscar in the parish of Pointe Coupee, near New Roads and Lakeland, Louisiana.  Young Betty Lou brought love and sunshine into this happy and Christian home.

Her parents, being pleased with this precious gift from God, reared her in the fear and admonition of the living God.  They were not satisfied until Betty was baptized and offered back to Christ at an early age at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge, LA.  She grew up in a Christian home, where education was a rarity for Negro children or children of African American descent.  Therefore, her parents, who were no doubt imbued with heavenly wisdom and guidance, ensured that Betty Lou would be afforded the unique and almost unheard-of opportunity to leave the family home, along with her siblings, Ida and Gilbert, to attend Blundon Boarding School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Her father donated land to this Boarding School to ensure their enrollment.  Betty Lou did not take this act of love and sacrifice lightly.  She demonstrated exceptional ability, completing the mandatory eighth grade for Black students of that era with top honors as the valedictorian at Central School in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Despite this achievement, her parents believed in her potential for greater success. They expressed their love and support by moving her to New Orleans, where she attended and graduated from the renowned McDonogh #35 College Preparatory High School. It was here that African Americans were afforded a college-preparatory curriculum sufficient for their entry into college.

After graduation from McDonogh #35 High School, she enrolled in and graduated from Southern University in Baton Rouge at the tender age of 20, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.  But again, Betty did not stop there!  Later in life, she returned to school and earned her Master of Education degree in Guidance and Counseling from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, an institution from which she was barred from attending earlier in life because of her race.  Again, Betty excelled and the sky continued to set her limits.

Betty was a fierce educator in Terrebonne Parish for 40 years, having retired in 1991.  She began her teaching career in Terrebonne Parish at the Crescent Farm School, a one-room classroom that was located in a sugar cane field on the Crescent Farm plantation.  There, she had a potbelly stove and would make her students soup along with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She was known as a “suitcase teacher” because she would take a bus weekly from New Orleans to Houma, where she taught.  On Fridays, she would return to New Orleans until Sunday evening or Monday morning –  depending on her mode of transportation: on the Greyhound bus or with fellow commuting teachers from New Orleans.  Although she formally retired in 1991, her love and dedication to teaching guided her to continue substitute teaching for approximately another 20 years, well into her mid-80s.  During her distinguished career, she was honored to teach students in second, third, fourth and eighth grades.  Betty, the consummate teacher, and philosopher that she was, recognized that children are not just to be taught, but that they, by their very nature, are also instruments that promote learning.  She would continually amuse children in the family by asking, “What did you let the teacher learn today?”  Can’t you just hear her now saying these prophetic words?

Even though she might have formally left the classroom in 1991, the truth is…Betty never left the classroom!  Her classroom was wherever she was and wherever there were children or adults in need of nurturing and edification.  For whenever she went into the community, someone from somewhere would come up to her and talk about how she taught them or their sibling, friend, neighbor, or cousin.  Even during her summer periods of supposed rest, she would continue to offer educational support through tutorials and study sessions.   She also completed certification requirements under the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), which was established in 1968 to promote the preservation of the French language and culture in Louisiana.

After graduating from college, Betty met and married the “love of her life,” Ezekiel Wallace, Jr., of Houma, LA.  To this union, three children were born: Bruce, Candice and Ezekiel Melvin Wallace, III.  Betty was a dedicated, devoted, and loving wife, mother, teacher, community servant and activist, whose love could be no deeper.  She lived for her family and took great pride in nurturing her children and the children of her community, for whom she advocated for and empowered.

Proverbs 31 tell us that “…a Christian woman is a virtuous woman.  Her price is far more above rubies.  Her children arise and call her blessed.  Her husband also praiseth her.”  After marrying her husband and moving to Houma, Betty and her family joined the Wesley United Methodist Church in Houma, where she served dutifully and faithfully as the Church Secretary until her transition home.  She volunteered countless hours and resources (physical and monetary) to the church and her civic community.  She loved ALL children unconditionally, and always wanted what was best for them.  This desire did not stop at her doorstep; she wanted the best for all children in the community. Although she was widowed at an early age, she never missed a beat with and for her children and grandchildren.

In addition to the care that she took in rearing her children, she and her late husband also instilled in each of their children a sense of purpose and a love for learning.  Their education was always of the utmost importance to her.  She created a Christian home filled with love, respect, and lots of laughter.  These young parents ensured that their children would have a keen sense of extended family by taking them on frequent trips to the “country” to visit their extended family and friends.  Betty Lou enjoyed and deserved her exalted status of Mother; a role she played quite well for the nearly 76 years she was blessed to be one.  As a mother, her love could be no deeper.  When you would engage with her, while on the surface she might appear quiet and observant; she was not silent or unconcerned.  While she was loving; be assured that she was not afraid.  She was gentle; but she was no one’s pushover.  She was strict, but she was not overbearing.

The family finds comfort in knowing that while she is absent from the body, she is present with the Lord. On Friday, December 1, 2023, Betty exchanged her crosses in this life for her crown in glory!  This was the life of our loved one.  She now joins her husband, Ezekiel Wallace, Jr., her parents, Gilbert and Ezar DeJean Nelson, six sisters and two brothers: Frank, Helen, Gilbertlene, Lelia, Polly, Ida, Corrine and Gilbert Nelson, Jr.

Surviving to emulate her beautiful life are her 3 children and their spouses:  Bruce and Marion Wallace, Dr. Candice Wallace and husband, Robert Diggs, and Melvin Ezekiel Wallace, III.  Her joy was made complete with her grandchildren:  Irma, Christina, Chere’, Chanel and Ca’Leah.  The family is consoled in knowing that evidence of God’s blessings can be seen throughout the life of Betty Lou Nelson Wallace.  She was inspired to do the good works that she did by a poem she learned in sixth grade that directs, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”  This is what Betty did and the world is a better place because of her life, love, faith, family, and sacrifice.

An attenuated measure of her community service includes membership in the Terrebonne Parish Women’s Day Association, J.J. Clement #15 Order of Eastern Star with affiliation in Houses with Darcus Taylor #9 Order of Cyrene, Katie Smith #45 Heroines of Jericho, and Edna B. Conway #26 Order of Amaranth.   Additionally, she was honored for her lifelong work and service to mankind by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) on two different occasions, with the latest having been in 2022, when she received the coveted Community Service Award.

The Nelson-Wallace family acknowledge with grateful appreciation the many expressions of kindness shown to them during the illness and passing of their loved one.  Their prayer is that God will richly and forever bless each and every one of you.

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