Bettye Sisco, who served as the president and chief executive officer of the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce for 15 years, passed away Sunday evening, February 19, 2023, at Parkwest Medical Center after a 13-year battle against leukemia.
Sisco, 74, held the position until her retirement on Dec. 31, 2016.
When Sisco was hired, the chamber was down to 100 members and $30,000 in debt. Her energy and passion to make things work pulled the organization out of a deep hole. When current president and CEO Julie Blaylock succeeded Sisco in February 2017, chamber membership had grown to 600 under Sisco’s leadership. And today, the chamber is debt free. And still growing with 663 members.
Sisco’s face and smile were very familiar to the business communities in Farragut, Knoxville, Knox County and throughout the state of Tennessee.
She served on the board of directors of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and served a one-year term as president of the TCC Executives. She also was a graduate of the prestigious Institute for Organization Management through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
She was born in Memphis, the daughter of a Baptist minister. The family moved many times and she lived in West Tennessee, New Mexico, Texas, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, Mississippi and Hawaii.
Blaylock, in writing about Sisco in a tribute to her on Facebook, wrote this: “…. As a preacher’s kid, even with her life’s very entertaining antics and adventures, she remained devoted to God and taught me that faith was critical, life-supportive and beautiful. Every morning she would start our daily meeting with, ‘This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!’”
Sisco left her life in Idaho to come to Farragut and Knox County in 2000. “She was my mentor,” Blaylock said.
Sisco had worked in the corporate office of Mary Kay Cosmetics as a product training specialist nationwide and had traveled the world. She also worked with Max Factor and Coty Cosmetics, meeting Sophia Loren and other celebrities along the way.
Part of the chamber’s resurgence was built on very weekly and popular networking events held at local businesses, usually on Thursdays. They remain a major part of the organization.
“Bettye was, and is, the master at building relationships, making people feel good about themselves,” Blaylock said. “I wouldn’t be who I am, or what I am now, without her. She has been completely transformative for me as a person.”
On Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, the chamber honored her at a reception party at Rothchild Catering & Conference Center to thank her for the hard and smart work she did to rebuild the Farragut Chamber. It was a packed house.
My relationship with Bettye was two-fold: being a fellow Rotarian communicating with her as part of our Family of Rotary committee as we supported her during her long illness and in her chamber position.
Here are my lasting memories of Bettye: “We all will miss her spirit, her sense of humor, her delightful smile, her hearty laugh, her candor, her love for our community and Farragut, and her devotion and love for the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Farragut. She indeed was one of a kind and her fight against her cancer and leukemia was valiant, and that’s a good word to describe Bettye Sisco — valiant. She was a force.”
Click Funeral Home is working with and supporting the family. As per Bettye’s wish, there will be no services. Her sister, Margaret Perkins of Wilmington, N.C., said a Celebration of Life may be held at a future date.
Tom King is a career journalist and a past president of Farragut Rotary.