Betty Jean Wilson Sylvia
August 25, 1924 – October 20, 2018
Betty was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, the first child of Lorne Martin Hutton and Helen Mills Hutton. She had one brother, Donald Hutton.
After attending high school at Westdale Collegiate, Betty attended Hamilton Teachers College and became certified as a kindergarten teacher. It was while she was in college that she made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as her Savior through the witness of a professor and the members of the Christian Teachers Fellowship.
In 1946, she attended the first Intervarsity Student Missions Conference in Toronto, Ontario. She sensed God’s calling her to become a missionary. There she met J. Christy Wilson Jr., the young man who had organized the conference. Four years later on June 14, 1950, they were married.
In 1951, Betty and Christy traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan, where Christy was hired to teach English to promising young students. Betty and Christy had three children, all born in Afghanistan: Nancy Sharon, J. Christy III, and Martin John. Christy was given permission by the Afghan government to become the Christian chaplain for the foreign community. The church met in Betty and Christy’s home.
In 1965, Betty began working with several poor Afghan blind boys, teaching them to read braille. That work eventually led to the founding of the Institute for the Blind, a school that took blind children and adults, helping them to progress through primary school using Braille books. Music education and vocational training was also offered. This school grew to include hundreds of students, and continues on to this day. Betty and Christy left Afghanistan in 1974 after 23 years of service there.
Christy then accepted an invitation to become a Professor of World Missions at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Betty and Christy would spend the next 18 years there. They had a great impact on students and their families as they prayed for them, taught them, and welcomed them into their home in beautiful Gloucester, MA.
Christy retired from teaching at the seminary in 1992 and he and Betty moved to a retirement community established for Presbyterian missionaries, Westminster Gardens, in Duarte, CA. They continued their lives of speaking, service, and prayer there, welcoming hundreds into their home. In 1998, Christy developed a rare form of cancer, which led to his death in February 1999.
Betty continued to live in Westminster Gardens, and in 2002, she married Irving Sylvia. Irving passed away in 2008. In 2016, Betty moved from California to Orlando, FL, to live with her son, J. Christy Wilson and his wife Edith. She passed away at home on October 20, 2018.
Betty is survived by her three children: Nancy and her husband Bill Newbrander, Chris and his wife Edith, and Martin and his wife, Farideh. In addition, Betty had 11 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
Betty was a woman of deep faith who loved her Savior, Jesus Christ. That love and faith touched all whom she encountered.