Elizabeth B. Stephens
Elizabeth Blount Stephens was born in Andrews Chapel, Georgia, approximately 70 miles south of Atlanta, on June 19, 1924, and passed away on January 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Piano and organ were her passions and talent, and she became the organist at the Thomaston Methodist Church early in her teens until she and her new husband, Charles Preston Stephens, moved to Panama with the Coca-Cola Export Corporation in August of 1946.
Over the next sixteen years Betty and Press moved from Panama to Brazil, to Chile, to Peru, and finally to Caracas, Venezuela, each time discovering the American church they joined was in need of an organist or an organist/choir director. Every time she would humbly take on the role with the caveat it was to be only until they found the new staff member, but her tenure always lasted until they moved to a new country with their three children. She brought a level of excellence and sophistication to the music programming in those sanctuaries the likes of which congregants had never heard or seen before. Her children, Pike, Press, Jr. and Sally, as a result of Betty’s passion for high quality music, sang in every choir at every age.
Returning to the United States in 1961, Betty found herself the organist and choir director at the Darien Methodist Church in Connecticut where she spent hours each day practicing preludes and postludes for Sunday services. In 1972, four years before Press’s retirement from Coke, Betty and Press moved back to Georgia and settled in Buckhead where Betty resided until her death. Of course, following her long career as a “temporary/full time” organist, she became an assistant organist at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, playing Chapel services for over twenty-five years before finally retiring at the age of seventy-five.
A true champion of all organists throughout the world, she would often be seen at organ recitals and festivals in each of the cities of her residencies abroad as well as in her prolific world-wide travels from 1946 through 2014. Almost every Sunday afternoon when she was in Atlanta, Betty would be at the organ recital before the Evensong service at the Cathedral of St. Phillip.
In addition to being a committed member of American and Methodist churches across the hemisphere, she led the Community Concert Association in Darien, joined the Board of Directors of the fledgling Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta becoming one of the longest serving Board members in their history, and served on the Board of the Georgian Chamber Players for several terms. Her philanthropy benefitted those organizations as well as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the High Museum of Art, and the Alliance Theatre. Betty said on many occasions, “If Atlanta is going to become a world class city, it must have a strong arts community”. It is with great admiration and pride that the Stephens family brings to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church the Elizabeth B. Stephens International Organ Competition.