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Betty Marie (Sharp) Neilan

Betty Marie (Sharp) Neilan

May 27, 1954 – July 30, 2018

Betty Marie (Sharp) Neilan was born May 27, 1954 in Saginaw, Michigan to Rex P. and Dorothy L. (Grubbs) Sharp. After nearly 5 years with no siblings, Betty's older sister, Phylis, couldn't wait to meet her. Betty attended public schools in Saginaw and then in Saginaw Township, MI: Jessie Loomis Elementary, Webber Junior High, Saginaw High School, and Douglas MacArthur High School.

Betty continued her education at Judson Baptist College in Elgin, IL where she graduated in 3 years, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree “with distinction” in 1975. Betty pursued a graduate degree at the Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. There she completed her Master of Divinity degree “cum laude” with a Bible and Psychology major in 1978.

Betty was a wonderful child. She loved school and all her teachers, and they loved her. She remained friends with a few of them well into adulthood. Betty was an avid lifelong reader, and that was the only time she was ever quiet! Betty loved to talk and visit with everyone including her dogs Ezra, Rahab, Panda and now Co Co Bear. She was sweet and loving and kind to everyone she met.

In Junior High, Betty started spending a lot of her spare time at church. Her great joy was serving her Lord. Betty's musical abilities emerged as well during junior high. She played the flute in the Webber Junior High School marching band, and was also a majorette at Webber Junior High, as well as at Saginaw High School.

While at Judson College, Betty forged many deep, life-long friendships with both faculty and fellow students. She was a part of the Judson College Choir and toured in Germany, as well as many states in the Midwest. From that point on, Betty's favorite past-time was singing for her Lord.

Upon her arrival at Eastern Seminary in the fall of 1975, Betty and Gary had their first encounter. It was not “love at first sight”. But over the next two years they would secretly establish a deep life-long bond as a team in ministry.

Betty and Gary were engaged in Saginaw, Michigan on February 1, 1978, and later were married on August 19, 1978 after Betty's graduation from Eastern. They have been celebrating 40 years of marriage this past year. In fact, on their 39th Anniversary, Gary presented Betty with her 40th Anniversary ring so she could enjoy it the whole year leading up to their anniversary on August 19th.

Betty was the first woman to be “Ordained to the Gospel ministry” at First Baptist Downey in 1979. It was Dr. Harold L. Adams who led the way and preached a series of sermons on the role of women used by God to pave the way for her ordination. Because of this, Pastors Betty and Gary have served our Lord as a ministry couple for these past 40 years.

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Some of the churches Betty served in were First Baptist Saginaw, First Baptist Downey, Calvary Baptist San Bernadino, First Baptist Fresno and First Baptist Hanford. This was her 21st year of ministry in Hanford.

Betty is survived by her husband Pastor Gary W. Neilan and her faithful friend Co Co Bear; her two sisters Phylis Beyer and her husband Mike of Saginaw, MI, and Carolyn Hartnagle and her husband John of Hope, MI; her mother-in-law Pat Neilan of Downey, CA; her brother-in-law Greg Neilan of Downey, CA; her nieces Jamie Slot, Monica Bentley, Libby Isanhart and Brandi Neilan; her nephews Brock Isanhart, John (L.J.) Hartnagle, Grant Neilan and Garrett Neilan; as well as her many aunts, uncles, cousins, great-nieces and nephews, as well as her church family and many friends. Betty was preceded in her homegoing by her daughter and her parents.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, August 18, 2018 at 10:30 am at First Baptist Hanford, 9125 13 ½ Avenue, Hanford, CA 93230. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the Children's Ministry at First Baptist Hanford. Interment will be private.

Family and Friends are invited to view Betty's legacy at and write condolences.

Services by People's Funeral Chapel


the life of: Betty Marie (Sharp) Neilan
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