Celebration of Life Service
Betty Jo Matherne
Saturday, July 17, 2021 - 2:00 PM
First United Methodist Church
Former Brownsville, TN mayor, Betty Jo Matherne, passed away peacefully at her home in Brownsville on March 1, 2021 with family by her side. She died from the ravages of cancer. She was 71 years old.
Jo’s passing is preceded by that of her husband, Richard H. “Dick” Meschendorf, Jr. and by her parents, Judge Kirby and Bettie Matherne. She is survived by two sisters and two brothers, Jean M. Avery (Brownsville, TN), Debra M. Jones (David) (Randolph, NJ), Louis K. Matherne, Jr. (Chris) (Richmond, VA) and Graham Matherne (Suzanne) (Brentwood, TN) as well as by three step-children, Richard H. Meschendorf, III (Joy) (Alcoa, TN), James K. Meschendorf (Stacy) (Powell, TN) and Martha G. Wilds (Mike) (Knoxville, TN). Jo is also survived by one niece, five nephews, three grand-nieces, two grand-nephews and five step-grandchildren.
Jo was born in Brownsville, TN on October 5, 1949. She attended public schools in Brownsville and attended the University of Tennessee earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Master’s Degree in Communication. After graduating, Jo stayed in Knoxville working in marketing and public relations first at City and County Bank and then at Valley Fidelity Bank. Later she formed her own marketing and public relations firm, Matherne Marketing.
While in Knoxville, Jo was involved in many civic and professional endeavors and was an active member and leader in the UT Alumni Association. She was an energetic and generous supporter of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, particularly the Symphony Orchestra’s Young Professionals organization and a past President of the Knoxville Opera Guild. Jo was a 1989 graduate and involved alumnus of the Knoxville Leadership Program. Jo was a founding member, and from 1992-1993, the President of the Knoxville area Executive Women’s Association.
In 1999, Jo returned to her hometown of Brownsville to work in marketing and public relations at InSouth Bank. While rising in the ranks at InSouth Bank, Jo made immediate impact in numerous Brownsville/Haywood County organizations such as the Haywood Heritage Foundation, Brownsville Rotary Club and Brownsville Arts Council where she assumed various leadership and board positions. She was also involved in local chapters of Habitat for Humanity and was a member of the state-wide Board for that organization. She was active in the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, where her involvement and leadership saw her representing that organization at regional and state-wide levels. She became a member of Brownsville First United Methodist Church and, as was her nature, assumed leadership roles regarding church matters, particularly in the area of church finances. Being a graduate of the Knoxville Leadership Program, Jo immediately becomes involved in the Haywood County Leadership Program, working diligently to shepherd leadership classes through that program and also later became actively involved in the Delta Leadership and WestStar Leadership Programs.
Jo’s leadership characteristics and interest in civic and community matters took a bend towards involvement in political matters. In 2010, she ran for and was elected Mayor of Brownsville, breaking ground as the first female mayor of the city. She served from 2010-2014, running an administration with integrity and responsiveness and being Brownsville’s “best foot forward” in regional and state-wide contexts. In 2013, Jo received a Sterling Award recognizing her as one of the 20 most influential women in West Tennessee. In 2014, Jo took a position with the Southwest Tennessee Development District where she made impact in public high schools in several West Tennessee counties related to the vocational education ”work ready” programs, amongst other matters.
Jo loved to read, she loved to travel, she loved visiting with family and friends, she was hospitable and made all feel welcome and at ease, she loved to play a hand or two of bridge, she loved all things UT, particularly the footfall games, and - - through all of it - - she loved interaction with people. It can truly and accurately be said that Jo had an impact, and a positive impact, upon much and many. Her even temperament, her energetic nature, her wise counsel, her genuineness and sincerity of interest in others will be greatly, greatly missed.
Under the direction of Lea and Simmons Funeral Home, the remains will be cremated and the ashes spread by Jo’s siblings in private gatherings at locations specified by Jo. A Memorial Service will be conducted, Saturday, July 17 2021, at 2 PM in the First United Methodist Church, 117 E. Franklin St., Brownsville, TN with visitation beginning at 1 PM. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in honor and remembrance of Jo to a charity of your choosing, to one of the non-profit organizations with which Jo was involved or to the Brownsville First United Methodist Church General Fund, 117 E. Franklin Street, Brownsville, TN 38012. Lea and Simmons Funeral Home, Brownsville, TN.