Elizabeth Berckbickler James (Betsy), a longtime resident of Leesburg, FL, died Wednesday evening, April 19 surrounded by her children and grandchildren at Cornerstone Hospice in Lady Lake.
Betsy was born in Hartford, Alabama on December 15th, 1932. Despite the relatively small size of the town, two other girls were born that day– with each of whom, Betsy built a lifelong friendship. As an only child, Betsy was raised by two strong women who precede her — her grandmother, Valeila J. Huey and her mother, Frances H. Berckbickler.
Betsy graduated Valedictorian at Geneva County High school in 1950. In addition to academic excellence, Betsy was a trumpet player and drum major. After graduation, Betsy spent two years at Auburn University. She then transferred to FSU in 1952 where she joined the Chi Omega Sorority. Upon graduation, Betsy moved back to Alabama, where she began her social work career, placing foster and orphaned children in adoptive homes.
After living in Chicago, Betsy married Col. Edward James in 1960 and they with their five children lived and traveled from England to Jackson, MS to Milledgeville, GA then finally to Leesburg, FL where she spent the majority of her life.
She is preceded by her husband, Col. Edward W. James.
Betsy was an avid traveler, visiting 6 of 7 continents and participating in travel programs such as the Friendship Force, Home exchanges, and the Sister City Exchange to Columbia. Betsy loved the performing arts and often took her children and grandchildren to events. Betsy was a known thrift shop frequenter and a collector of novelties of all kinds. She was an active member of the Women’s Club, the DAR, and the Republican Party. Betsy spearheaded The Opportunity Shop thrift store which over the years has supported members of the community in dire need. Betsy was a breast cancer survivor, a night owl, an accomplished seamstress, an epicurean, and a lover of books. Betsy was a FSU football fan, attending the National Championship in California in 2014. Betsy was a friend to everyone she met, an eternal optimist, and at the age of 69 she found and built relationships with a half brother and half sister whom she had never known before. Betsy was known for her bright pink lipstick, for speaking her mind, and for showing up to win bridge games.
Betsy is survived by 5 children and their spouses, Byrnes (Kim) James of Leesburg and Chattanooga, TN, Brooks (Jane) James Fruitland Park, Elizabeth J. (Steve) Knowles of Leesburg, Edward (Susan) James of Leesburg, William (Lisa) James of Fruitland Park; brother, John R. Berckbickler of Pittsburgh, PA and sister, Barb (Terry) Krysinski; 13 grandchildren, Edward, John and William James; Brooks James; Sarah, Mandy and Liam Knowles, Lee, Brynnan and Sadie Rae James; April and Corey Dean and Jamie Panelle; five great grandchildren, Ethan, Katelyn, Ryleigh, Soli and Riko all of whom brought her great joy and will miss her.
A funeral service for Betsy will be held on Sunday, April 23 at 2 p.m. at St. James Episcopal Church with visitation on Saturday, April 22 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Beyers Funeral Home Chapel, Leesburg. Burial will be in Lone Oak Cemetery following the funeral Service. For those who wish, memorial donations may be made to Lake Sumter Children’s Advocacy Center, 300 South Canal Street, Leesburg, FL 34748.