With a Heavy Heart…

Joanne Elizabeth (“Betty”) Keith Mathis, age 78, of Phoenix, Arizona passed away on August 23, 2021.

“Life is too short not to make a positive difference in someone’s life,” are words that Betty Mathis lived by.

Born Joanne Elizabeth Keith, Betty spent most of her childhood and teen years in Pittsburg, Kansas where she graduated from what is known today as Pittsburg State University. The daughter of a Presbyterian minister and music teacher and easily recognized by her red hair, Betty demonstrated leadership skills at a young age. She served as the president of almost everything—including two different college sororities. Betty worked briefly as a high school English teacher, where she developed her penchant for grammar.

As a young adult, Betty married and moved to Houston, Texas, where she spent the next twenty years raising her two daughters, volunteering for various religious, non-profit, and community causes, and serving on multiple boards in a leadership role. She was particularly active in PEO, the United Methodist Church, and United Methodist Women. She turned her volunteer work into a more “formal” career when she became the Executive Director of Interfaith Ministries, creating a more respectful, connected, and caring society through interfaith relationships and service to vulnerable populations.

Feeling that her work in Houston was complete, Betty left her life in Texas and started a new one in Phoenix, Arizona in 1993. Within a short time, she became the Executive Director of Wesley Community Center. Betty relished her twenty-five years at Wesley, making her biggest positive impact in others’ lives. She always said that she “could write a book” about her time at Wesley, where her dedication to her staff and Wesley’s mission led to the continuous improvement in the lives of the underserved. Under Betty’s leadership, what started out as a small neighborhood community center with adult education and youth sports programs turned into a much larger center with two campuses, federally qualified health centers, and expanded neighborhood revitalization, education, and service programs. Betty retired from Wesley in 2019, where they celebrated her lifetime achievements and service to others.

While Betty primarily dedicated her life’s work to the non-profit community, she also found joy in her daughters, friends, books, travel (particularly road trips), music, swimming, and her grandchildren. She was an excellent listener who respected everyone and enjoyed supporting others in their personal journeys.

Betty is survived by her daughters, Julie Mathis Nelson (Phoenix, AZ) and Jennifer Mathis Castelli (Park City, UT), brother Robert Keith (Carl Junction, MO), and five grandchildren, Halle Nelson, Henry Nelson, Jack Castelli, Luke Castelli, and Kate Castelli.

To celebrate Betty’s life and make a positive difference in someone’s life, the family requests that donations be made in Betty’s memory to the Wesley Community and Health Centers:

By Mail: 1300 S 10th St, Phoenix, AZ 85034


Online: Click here

Betty Keith Mathis