Blaylock salutes her late mentor

‘I owe Bettye so much of who I am today’

Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce’s first president/CEO, Bettye Sisco, has died following a 13-year battle with leukemia.

Many in the community are mourning her loss, but maybe none as much as her successor, FWKCC president/CEO Julie Blaylock, who had worked side-by-side with Sisco from 2011 to 2016.

“I would not have the job/career I have without her,” said Blaylock in a heartfelt Facebook post, about Ms. Sisco, 74, who passed away Sunday, Feb. 19, at Parkwest Medical Center surrounded by family.

While not the first to lead the FWKCC, Sisco was the first named its president and CEO, and headed the organization from 2001 through 2016.

During her first interview with Sisco, they bonded over coffee and a shared history of cancer.

“She loved my post-chemo pixie cut and that I wore a suit; I loved her effusive but commanding demeanor & STYLE and her irreverent sense of humor,” Blaylock wrote.

Two more interviews followed, and Blaylock became not only Bettye’s executive assistant, but an eager mentee.

“I owe Bettye so much of who I am today and of the opportunities I have,” Blaylock wrote. ““Because of Bettye, I learned to always show up as my best self like she strived to,” she said, noting there days when it became difficult for her boss.

“It got harder, the more times she came out of remission from her illness, the times she struggled to breathe after the pneumonia that almost killed her, but showed up anyway.

“But she kept showing up. Showing up was really important and is half the battle.”

Blaylock, also a fellow Rotary Club of Farragut member with Bettye, said her former boss “remained active there, as much as she was able.”

Blaylock said Ms. Sisco helped her not only professionally, but also personally, and gives her the credit for Blaylock learning “to find my faith again. … She taught me that faith was critical, life-supportive and beautiful.

“She made me believe that there was a place for me in the great beyond someday.”

While Blaylock knew Ms. Sisco during a different season of life, long-time Chamber member and Mary Kay consultant Marianne Morse was instrumental in bringing Sisco to Farragut, having known her through Mary Kay.

“I met her in June 1989,” said Morse, who then lived in New York. Sisco lived in Dallas.

About a decade later, Morse was living in Knoxville and was serving on the FWKCC Board of directors, and Bettye had moved to another company to work in Idaho, Falls, Idaho. “We were searching for a new executive director/president, and I just knew she had the moxie, the passion and the presence to do the job,” she recalled. “I thought she would be great, and the rest is history.

“Her passion, her dedication and her loyalty were unsurpassed,” Morse added. “I’m just so grateful to have called her friend.”

Blaylock asked that other fond memories be shared by e-mailing “so we might pass them on to the family as appropriate to comfort them at this time.”