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Betty Lou Harmison – hotel owner, History Hero, museum & garden club founder—dies at 95

Betty Lou Kline Harmison

1926-2021

Betty Lou Kline Harmison, age 95, passed away on Saturday, November 13, 2021, at her home in Berkeley Springs from natural causes.

She was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, on March 19, 1926, to Charles A. Kline and Marie Lambert Kline.

She was predeceased by her husband, William L. Harmison, and is survived by her children, W. Stephen Harmison, Charles William Harmison and wife, Nancy Morgan Harmison and Elizabeth von Hassell, three grandchildren, Christian and William von Hassell and Morgan Harmison Duterte and husband Daniel Duterte and a great-grandson, Desmond Duterte.

She attended George Washington University and owned the Carriage House and Herb House gift shops. Betty taught school in Morgan County and most importantly, she and Bill owned and operated the acclaimed Park View Inn hotel.

Her love of history, gardening and conservation are evident in the Town of Bath. Betty firmly believed that history should be studied, taught and preserved, so she founded the Museum of Berkeley Springs. When she saw the town needed beautification, she founded the Foxglove Garden Club. She successfully wrote the National Register of History Places nomination for Berkeley Springs, and as part of the Town of Bath Landmark Commission she made a historical survey of the town identifying and mapping the original streets and lot owners. In 2011 she wrote the “Images of America, Berkeley Springs” celebrating the history of Berkeley Springs through her vast collection of local photographs.

Over her seven decades of community service she headed the Junior Women’s Club, was president of hospital auxiliary, served on Hospice of the Panhandle, the Berkeley Springs State Park Foundation, the Town of Bath Council and the West Virginia Division of Arts, Culture and History.

Her contributions were recognized and over the years she received numerous prestigious awards. Governor Manchin named her a West Virginia History Hero in 2007 in recognition for her decades long commitment to uncovering and recording history. She received the Girl Scouts’ Woman of Distinction award and the Town Rivers Giving Circle Preservation and Conservation award.

Betty never missed a party, and enjoyed giving and attending them. She brought love, laughter and life to everyone and will forever be in the warm thoughts of so many. Her ability to share her love and knowledge was endless as echoed by the numerous messages of people calling her their “second” mother. She was an artist, a historian, a Master Gardener and hostess. She was often referred to as the grand dame of Berkeley Springs, which she found amusing. She held court to the end with visitors coming for short visits and staying for hours listening to her stories, laughing and of course having a glass of champagne. She was a genuine delight who will be remembered for the love, fun and knowledge she shared. A gracious and beautiful woman who gave to others, her community and those who knew her best, her family. An elegant lady who could put on river shoes and wade in her much loved Cacapon River with a book and read all day.

A Celebration of Life will be held in the Spring and in lieu of flowers she requested contributions be made to Hospice of the Panhandle.