On February 13, 2020, Mrs. Elizabeth Graves Shavers followed God’s free light and unfolded on the other side, securely embraced in the of the arms of her Master.
Elizabeth, the third of three children and the last of her generation, was born in Pittsylvania County Virginia to the late Ishmond and Jennie Flippen Graves. She and her family spent some of the early years of her life in Iaeger, West Virginia. The family later moved to Danville, Virginia where she quickly adjusted to a new city, new friends and a new school. Elizabeth was educated in the Danville School System and graduated from the John M. Langston High School in 1944. After high school, she attended a local business school with the intent of becoming a secretary, but during this time her interests changed and her gift for cooking became her profession. She delved into the food service industry that came to define her and showcase her gifts for the next forty years.
She was employed by the Danville School System, first on the cafeteria staff at the West End Elementary School and later at Schoolfield High School. Her talent and work ethic led to her advancement and promotion to managerial positions. She became Manager of Cafeteria at Irving W. Taylor Middle School, John M. Langston High School and O. T. Bonner Jr. High School. When she retired in 1990—after forty years of service to the school system—she had provided well-balanced, nutritious and delicious meals for thousands of students, staff and teachers.
Elizabeth extended her passion, expertise and love for food preparation by becoming a caterer in her spare time. She was known for preparing elegant and attractive spreads for weddings, parties, and other important events around Danville. She was a willing advisor to other cooks as well—offering guidance on how to prepare a single dish or plan a tasteful banquet.
Her cooking served as a form of civic engagement as well. Elizabeth, along with her late husband James E. Shavers, played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement and in the voters-rights efforts in Danville by providing food and transportation whenever and wherever it was needed.
Bettye also loved entertaining her friends. It gave her joy to have her friends gather in her home to enjoy fellowship and conversation, debate the issues, play spirited and competitive card games and, in all cases, fill up on the good food that she prepared.
Her daughter, Sherone, was the light and pride of Bettye’s life and she did everything possible to support her daughter’s education, interests and activities. But she had room in her heart for all the children in her life—a love and concern that was evident from the financial, moral and emotional support she freely gave.
“Miss Bettye” became the neighborhood matriarch—a source of wit and wisdom for anyone who was wise enough to listen to her stories and advice. She was an anchor of the community— always ready to give comfort and help to the neighbors in their time of need, and always ready to celebrate and share a laugh in times of joy.
Elizabeth was a lifelong member of the Prospect Missionary Baptist Church. She dearly loved her church and gave her service to God by serving over the years on the Usher Board, as Financial Secretary, in the Missionary Society and in the Senior Choir. The power of her voice led her to became one third of the Church Trio with her friends Thelma Ferguson and Mary Graves. She actively supported her church with her attendance and finances until her physical condition caused her to relocate to Knoxville, Tennessee to be cared for by her daughter, Sherone. Even when she was physically removed from the church, she maintained her connection with her church family and continued to financially support her church.
Mrs. Shavers was preceded in death by her husband James E. Shavers; her parents Ishmond and Jennie Flippen Graves; brother John “Pemp” Graves; sister Frances Graves Reed; and grandson, Thomas “Tommy” Shavers.
She leaves to mourn, her daughter Sherone Shavers-Richie (Jerry) of Knoxville; granddaughter Wanda Shavers Allen (George) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; God-grandson, Ernest McDuffy, Jr. of Knoxville; her “other daughter,” Jackie Harris of Chicago; niece, Audrey Coleman; and nephew, Donald Graves. She will also be sorely missed by the Jeffries Family, Polk Family, Millner Family, great nephews and great-great nephews and nieces and many other relatives and friends.
Friday, February 21, 2020, at 11 o’clock in the morning, the family requests friends to join in celebrating the life of Mrs. Shavers at Prospect Missionary Baptist Church, Inc., 812 Old Mayfield Road, Danville, Virginia. Reverend Dr. Demetrius Crews, Pastor Emeritus, will preside. Interment will immediately follow at Danville Memorial Gardens where a white dove release will conclude the service. Flowers may be delivered to the church the morning of the celebration. Professional arrangements entrusted to Patton Funeral Home, Brian L. Buckmon, LFD 1-800-824-8283 or www.pattonfuneralhome1962.com in conjunction with Fisher & Watkins Funeral Home, Danville, VA 24541.
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