Mary Elizabeth Teague McNeill, 91, of Raeford, North Carolina passed away on July 29, 2023.
Mary Elizabeth “Betsy” Teague McNeill was born November 18, 1931, in Greensboro, NC, the third child of four and only girl of Claude Edward Teague and Mary Spaugh Teague. She was known to leave notes reading, “Don’t forget November 18th” in her family’s laundry. Betsy's family subsequently moved to Chapel Hill where her father became the Business Manager of the Consolidated University of North Carolina. There she shared a room with her first cat and endured the good-natured and protective pestering of her brothers, whom she adored. It was there that she became fast friends with the former Dana Phipps, who would prove to be a worthy co-conspirator for the remainder of her life.
Betsy attended The Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (the “WC”), graduating in 1953 with a degree in Education. After graduation, she began her teaching career with stops in Goldsboro, Mt. Airy and Sanford. While teaching in Sanford, Betsy was introduced by mutual friends to a dashing young farm boy who was a student at the University of North Carolina School of Law, Bobby Burns McNeill. After a blind date at Wrightsville Beach, Mr. McNeill persuaded Betsy to see him again and the pair became inseparable. Once Betsy secured his promise that they would have a cat in the house after they were married, the pair exchanged vows on June 27, 1959 at the University United Methodist Church on Franklin Street, in Chapel Hill (the University Presbyterian Church had burned down in February, 1958). This was the start of what would be a 64-year union, with very few of those years without a cat or two. The couple settled in Mr. McNeill's hometown of Raeford where Mrs. McNeill continued her teaching career until the birth of her first son, Robert Burns McNeill. Over the course of the next eight years, they would add another son, Thomas Edward McNeill and a daughter, Mary Elizabeth McNeill.
Mrs. McNeill decided to pause her teaching career to raise her children. She did this with the help of Helen Thomas, who quickly went from a trusted babysitter for Rob to a fundamental and treasured part of the McNeill family. Education and manners were always very important to Betsy. Her children and her husband, all lawyers, were never under any illusions regarding the smartest person in the room. As recently as last week, each of her children were reassured to learn that they had each had their grammar corrected by her. Mrs. McNeill was a part of the group that founded Robeson Country Day School. Her children’s education was very important to her and she was very involved with the school, serving as a board member and a substitute teacher – much to her teenage children’s chagrin. Mrs. McNeill later resumed her career in Hoke County at McLauchlin Elementary School and Scurlock Elementary School. She concluded her service working at the Hoke County Library where she conducted story time. This always involved hand-made puppets, props, voices and a great deal of enthusiasm. The children, whom she loved, were rapt.
Betsy was by far the most interesting member of the Bobby McNeill family. She was meticulous, exceedingly clever and possessed a wonderful and sharp sense of humor. There was almost nothing she could not do or would not try to do. She took classes or taught herself to build and reupholster furniture, weave baskets, assemble and furnish dollhouses, make Barbie clothes, school costumes, signs, dolls and dish clothes. She taught herself tatting and origami. Betsy was an Anglophile and a voracious reader of mostly paperback fiction. She loved old houses (which her children thought was hysterical when they were young) and had a great eye for antiques. She was always interested in new technology. She was the first to bring a calculator, computer (Commodore 64), electric drill, toaster and video game into the Bobby McNeill household. Betsy loved to travel, taking summer car trips with her family when they were young and sneaking off to the beach with Bobby on a random Friday afternoon. When she was older, she traveled overseas to London and France with her sons and to Scotland with a group from Antioch Presbyterian Church. She was always, always up for an adventure.
Mrs. McNeill was a life-long fan of All My Children. When she was not able to watch in person, she taped it. She taught her children to love the show and they and their college friends scheduled their courses around it. There are untold numbers of economists, health care workers and anthropologists who wilted on the vine for no other reason than that those classes were scheduled at the same time as the show. Having grown up mostly in Chapel Hill and coming from a family steeped in the University, she was a rabid Tar Heel. This distinction came not only with a great love of UNC and Chapel Hill, but also a keen distaste for anything Dook. This too she taught her children.
Above all, Betsy was fiercely loyal to the ones that she loved. She was the truest friend, a devoted mother and a partner that took great pride in keeping the promises she had made. She was not afraid to make a decision, right or wrong, and stand behind it. When Bobby became quite ill, Betsy said that if he were leaving this earth, she planned to be in the car with him. And perhaps she is, riding shotgun in an old Chevy II convertible on the way to the beach.
The family thanks Helen Thomas for a lifetime of love and care. They also thank Doris McGougan, Gladys Kershaw and Ruby Chambers for the love and care provided to Betsy in her final days. The family also thanks Julie and Gordon Ragsdale for being wonderful neighbors who were always available.
On Friday, August 4, 2023, there will be a brief graveside service at Raeford Cemetery at 9:00 am followed by visitation at Raeford Presbyterian Church at 9:45 am. A service will follow in the sanctuary at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Raeford Presbyterian Church building fund.