Sara E. Runyan

Sara Elizabeth (Betsy) Runyan, 73, passed away on Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in the memory care unit at Bellaire at Stone Port. Betsy was born Aug. 10, 1945, in Clarksburg, W.Va., and was the daughter of the late E.J. and Lois Dilmore.

Betsy grew up in Clarksburg, W.Va., and graduated from Washington and Irving High School in 1963. She grew up surrounded by her large extended family which included many aunts, uncles and cousins. Following High School, Betsy attended Madison College for Women and graduated in 1967 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Speech Pathology. During her collegiate career she was an active member of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority and was elected president in her senior year. During her junior year in college, Betsy met her future husband, Charles Runyan. They married a year later during her senior year in college. Following her graduation, they relocated to Lexington, Ky., where Betsy taught first grade at Lin-Lee Elementary School. Her passion for speech pathology led her to leave the classroom and pursue her master’s degree at the University of Kentucky. She completed the program in 1970 and was subsequently hired as a speech language pathologist by the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. While working there, she and her husband were blessed with the birth of their first daughter, Mary Margaret (Marnie) in 1972. Betsy’s love for speech pathology influenced her husband to change careers and he also earned his Master’s degree in Speech Pathology at the University of Kentucky. Following his graduation, they relocated to Perdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., where she was hired as a clinical supervisor in the Speech Pathology Department while her husband was enrolled in the doctoral program in Speech Language Pathology. Before leaving Perdue they were blessed with second daughter, Rachel Sara, in 1974.

Following the completion of her husband’s doctorate, Betsy and her family returned to her alma mater Madison College, where she and her husband were both hired as professors in the area of Speech Pathology. During her time as a professor at Madison College (soon to become James Madison University) Betsy served as a faculty adviser to the Tri-Sigma sorority for many years. In addition to being a professor, Betsy became the Director of the Speech and Language Clinic at JMU until her retirement in 2006. Professionally, she was an active member of the American Speech and Language Association (ASHA) and she was elected president of the College and University Clinical Supervisors Interest Group of the American Speech and Language Association. She was a member of Speech Hearing Association of Virginia (SHAV). Betsy served for approximately 25 years as a consultant in Speech Language Pathologist at Bridgewater Retirement Home. Also, during her professional career, Betsy and her husband published numerous chapters and conducted workshops in the area of treating children and adults who stuttered. In addition, she shared an active private practice with her husband in Winchester, Va., where she treated individuals who stuttered.

During her time in Harrisonburg, Betsy and her family were members of First Presbyterian Church on Court Square where she attended while in college. Betsy was a woman of many artistic talents, which included sewing, designing and gourmet cooking. She loved to entertain and was known for her annual Kentucky Derby Parties where she and her husband could bring a little Kentucky to the Valley. She and her family were members of Spotswood Country Club where she and her husband would enjoy meeting friends and having Friday date nights.

Betsy is survived by her husband of 52 years, Charles; daughter, Mary Margaret (Marnie) Godfrey and husband, Brent, grandson, Gabriel Robert, granddaughters, Gracen Elizabeth and Greta Anne of Harrisonburg, Va., and daughter, Rachel Runyan Orndorff and husband, Ryan; granddaughter, Avenelle Rose and grandson, Charles Ryan of Vienna, Va. She was preceded in death by her parents, E.J. and Lois Dilmore, and her sister, Mary Ann Garthwaite.

A memorial celebration of Betsy’s life will be held 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Dr. Jon Heeringa officiating. The family will receive friends one hour prior to the memorial celebration at the church in Showker Hall. There is no public viewing as her wishes were to be cremated.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are encouraged to be made in Betsy’s memory to the “JMU Communications Sciences and Disorders Fund” in care of the JMU Foundation, 1320 S. Main St., MSC 8501, Harrisonburg, VA 22807.

Lindsey Funeral Home in Harrisonburg is handling arrangements. Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting

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