Crusader Staff Report
Adrew Betts, beloved chairman of the deacon board at Greater St. John Bible Church, in the Austin community, has died of COVID-19, Pastor Ira Acree said in a press release. He was 71.
“He was my hero,” his daughter, Renee Ruffin, told the Crusader. “He endured and overcame a lot of challenges. He was such a fighter.”
Acree said Betts was a committed member and pillar of the highly-visible westside church and community. He faithfully served on the board of deacons for 25 years and as its chairman for the last seven years. Betts died early Sunday morning, April 5th, on what the Christian faith tradition calls Palm Sunday. Betts worked beside Acree to help lead the church from a storefront to the church’s current edifice. He was a staunch supporter of community activism and advocacy. Betts is one of the 113 African Americans to succumb to COVID-19 in Illinois.
“As his pastor and friend, this truly hurts my heart,” Acree said in a statement. “The death of Deacon Adrew Betts has left a great void in the leadership helm of our church and community. He was an exemplary family man and a mentor of men. The funeral arrangements have been set for this weekend at Greater St John Bible Church. His body will lie in state Friday April 10th from 3:00pm – 7:00pm. The abbreviated funeral service will be Saturday at 11:00am.”
Betts was also a Vietnam veteran and a former UPS driver, who retired in 2001 after 31 years, said his caregiver, Valeria Massey, 46.
“He loved to barbeque,” Massey told the Crusader. “That was his passion. He can cook and he enjoyed traveling and taking road trips. He loved visiting different barbeque restaurants. He loved Al’s Grill in Oak Park, where he visited three to four times a week. He was an avid dresser who loved his church. And he loved serving people.”
Massey said she last spoke to Betts on the telephone on Thursday, April 2, three days before he died. She said by then, Betts was on a ventilator and could barely speak.
“I told him thank you for your service and that he helped a lot of people,” Massey recalled. “I said, ‘I’ll see you later. I love you. Bye. And that was that.”
Acree said Betts’ death led him to air his frustrations on Facebook, after reports show that 68% of the coronavirus cases in Chicago were Black.
“Blacks being at the bottom of America’s socioeconomic strata causes many to pay a steep price because of the inaccessibility to adequate healthcare,” Acree said in a statement. “Healthcare was not an issue for Betts — he was a man of means, however I can’t help but wonder if there was less value placed on his life because of age or race. In a system where blacks have been historically marginalized, oppressed and discriminated against, it’s never outlandish to ask the tough questions. This needs to be addressed and investigated immediately! In the 21st century, this kind of racism and ageism should not exist.”
Betts’ wife, Dorothy Betts, of 45 years preceded him in death. As the patriarch of the Betts family, he leaves three children: Renee, Kenneth and Jeremy; six grandchildren and many friends, all to cherish his legacy.