Long time Wilton resident, Opera Singer Betty Jones 89, died on November 7, 2019 at Norwalk Hospital with her loving family by her side. Born in Plainfield, NJ, the daughter of William and Mary Powell, she graduated from Plainfield High School in 1947, Sarah Lawrence College in 1951 and received an Honorary Doctorate from Green Mountain College in 1992. While at Sarah Lawrence, she met the love of her life, Eugene (Doug) Jones.
Shortly after getting married in 1954, Betty and Doug moved to Wilton, CT where they recently celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary. Armed with a degree in art, she started painting at home, appeared in numerous Wilton Playshop musical productions and became the soprano soloist at the Wilton Congregational Church. In 1970, CT’s Governor John Dempsey appointed Betty as the first Black Woman on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees.
A Wilton neighbor heard her sing and arranged for an audition with the Boston Opera Company. As a result, on March 12, 1971, Betty made her first professional opera appearance in Boston at the age of 41, singing two small roles in “Louise”. Her first major role was “Aida” with the Seattle Opera Company in 1972. Other major companies include: San Fransisco, Chicago Lyric, Mexico City, New York City, Chautaugua, Washington DC Opera, etc., as well as companies in Italy, Germany, England and Australia.
In 1978, on exactly five hours notice, Betty substituted for an indisposed Roberta Knie to sing the leading role on Reiza in a concert version of “Oberon” at Carnegie Hall opposite Nicolai Gedda. Two days later as she was packing to leave for Weisbaden, Germany to sing Tosca, she was offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera to cover Leonie Rysanek as the “Empress” in their new production of Die Frau Ohne Schatten.
In 1986, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts presented Betty Jones with its coveted Arts Award and a 30 minute television special on her life was shown on CT Public Television throughout the state. Past recipients include the legendary contralto Marion Anderson, jazz pianist and fellow Wilton resident, Dave Brubeck and the noted historian Barbara Tuchman.
In 2014 Betty published her autobiography “The Music In My Life”, an inside look at entering the difficult world of being an opera singer when past the age of 40.
Betty is survived by her husband Eugene (Doug) Jones, children Jeff and Janet and grandchildren Samantha, Brandis, Wesley and Hunter. She also leave numerous friends who appreciated her sense of humor and sassy attitude as well as her spiritual and family values. She brought joy to everyone around her.
A Celebration of Betty’s life will be held on Friday, November 22, 2019 at the Wilton Congregational Church, 70 Ridgefield Road, at 1:00 PM.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her honor to: Stay At Home In Wilton, P.O. Box 46, Wilton, CT 06897. This wonderful organization has been very helpful to Wilton senior citizens.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Betty Jean (Powell) Jones, please visit our floral store.