Photo by Brian Giandelone
COVINGTON -- Long-time former city of Covington clerk Betty Schell died Monday at the age of 83. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. today at the chapel at Caldwell and Cowan Funeral Home at 1215 Access Road.
Schell was the longest serving clerk in the city's history and was revered by co-workers and the public she regularly encountered. In the 1960s, a woman in such a position of authority was rare, and daughter Cindy George said her mother blazed a trail "to show women how to be a professional and mother at the same time."
Schell retired from the city in 1990 after 31 years of service. She started as a bookkeeper and worked her way up to city clerk, a position she retained for 22 years. In those days, the clerk served as de facto city manager and Schell was very involved with city operations. She also oversaw all city elections and was the city's very first cable customer.
"She was devoted to her job as well as to her family. She loved the job, she loved the people. We never realized how much the people of the city loved her until the last few days. It's made us feel so good to see that," her son Terry Schell said.
Linda Walden took over as city clerk when Schell retired and was a close friend.
"She was well-informed and you could ask her almost anything and she could give you the answer to it, pertaining to accounting, a particular ordinance and the duties of the clerk ... I think she established the point that a woman can do all these things as well as a man," Walden said.
Many who knew Schell recall that she was always well put together, hair and make-up perfectly done, and wearing a color coordinated outfit.
City Manager Steve Horton knew Schell from childhood and was a city police officer when she served as clerk.
"In those days she looked like she ought to be in a business magazine. She knew her role and Ms. Betty spoke with authority. But she was a real warm and compassionate person. In those days when you thought of Ms. Betty, you thought of the city and when you thought of the city, you thought of Ms. Betty. She loved being a part of the city ... It won't ever be the same with her gone," he said.
Horton has asked the Covington Police Department to serve as honor guard at Schell's funeral. "Being that she's so much a part of us, I thought it was most appropriate," he said.
Former Mayor Bill Dobbs described Schell as "radiant," someone who commanded the respect of all those she encountered, including members of the public who would come to City Hall to complain and leave happy after speaking with her.
"She did an excellent job as far as I'm concerned. She had respect for the general public, which some people do not have. I can't think of a bad thing about her," Dobbs said.
Long after her retirement, Schell continued to show up at city functions. Her commitment to the city was eclipsed only by her devotion to her family, her children said.
"She knew how to separate her career from her family. When she was home, she was all about her family," said son Richard Schell.
Schell was preceded in death by her husband, Guy P. Schell. She is survived by her three children, nine grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
Pastor Gary Thompson and Judge Samuel D. Ozburn will officiate at today's funeral service and interment will follow at Covington City Cemetery with Pastor Jason Dees presiding at the committal service. Flowers will be accepted or donations may be made to Susan G. Komen For the Cure, 4840 Roswell Road, Atlanta, GA, 30342.