Durham museum remembers volunteer killed in collision involving ex-UNC women’s basketball coach

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — You may not have known her name, but if you’ve visited the butterfly house at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, you may have spoken with Betty Colby.  

The volunteer of 20 years died last week after police say a car, driven by former UNC women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell, hit her in a parking lot.

Betty and her husband Ron started volunteering at the butterfly house in 1999.  

They came back almost every Wednesday for the next 20 years.  

Betty loved to sit on a bench and talk to everyone passing through.

“Spunky, I guess, is a good term,” said Uli Hartmond, the director of the butterfly house. “She was a good old girl from Texas. She spoke her mind as well as gently talking to our guests and educating them about our butterflies.”

He said Betty never slowed down, even at 89.

“She was just really absolutely spry and healthy and bouncy. She did everything independently,  she was the chauffeur of the family for her husband,” recalled Hartmond. “The two came as a couple. For us, it was sort of the thought that they’d be with us forever.”

Last week the team at the butterfly house learned Betty died.

“I immediately was really devastated. It was like losing a grandmother,” said Hartmond. 

Wednesdays will be difficult without Betty Colby.  

On this first Wednesday since her death, Hartmond said her husband came to the butterfly house, just like he had so many times with his wife.

“It was very moving to see him saying kind of goodbye to the butterfly house because he won’t be able to come here anymore,” he said, adding, “All the butterflies that landed reminded him of Betty and how she was so so happy being here.” 

Sylvia Hatchell has been cited with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle in connection with a class. She released a statement saying: 

“As the public is already aware, I was involved in an accident last week when leaving the parking lot of my local fitness studio. Very sadly, Mrs. Betty Colby, the other person involved, has passed away. This is a devastating tragedy and I cannot pretend to imagine what Mrs. Colby’s family is going through. My heartfelt and deepest sympathies go out to them and I pray that they be shown God’s grace during this difficult time. I will continue to cooperate with the Durham County authorities in every way possible and ask that the news media respect the Colby family’s privacy in their time of grief.”

Sylvia Hatchell

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