DURHAM—Elizabeth Blankenship Alt, age 80, died on Tuesday, September 6, 2016 at Durham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. She was in Hospice Care at Heartland under the auspices of Durham Rehabilitation Center. She was born on June 20, 1936 to the late Forrest Farley Blankenship and Margaret Burke Blankenship.
Elizabeth (Betty) was born in Paris, Texas and raised in Norman, OK as well as Austin, TX, Chicago, IL and Oak Ridge, TN. Her father’s position as a Chemistry Professor and scientist took the family to Oak Ridge where he worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Betty and her twin sister Jane graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1954. She enrolled in the University of Tennessee and majored in Biology. She also worked on the effect of radioactive isotopes on mice at the Oak Ridge National Lab. She was raised an Episcopalian and met her future husband at the Episcopal Student Center at UT. Betty and her twin sister Jane were room-mates at UT. After she graduated with a B.A. from UT in 1958, she joined her fiancé Arthur Tilo Alt at the University of Texas at Austin where they were married. With her prior top security clearance, she was employed at the Balcones Laboratory run by the US Air Force where she worked with the first mammal to be sent into outer space, commonly referred to as the “space monkey” that was launched into outer space in 1959. After her husband accepted a teaching position at Duke University, their daughter Sharon was born in Durham in 1962. Betty’s love of nature, birds in particular, and her commitment to the Episcopal Church shaped her adult life. She entered the Education for the Ministry Program of the Episcopal Church and also was elected and served as the first female Senior Warden on the Vestry of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Durham. Her interest in music, she was an avid recorder player, books and the arts made her many friends. In High School she was a Red Cross Life Saver and Swim Instructor and her interest in navigation later in life led her to joining America’s oldest boating safety organization, the US Power Squadrons, founded in 1914 and having a distinguished record of aiding the US Navy in developing and teaching celestial navigation to the Navy in both world wars. As a member f the Durham Power Squadron, Betty took up and then taught celestial navigation. She and her husband shared their love of boating and taking star sights by taking up sailing in their 32’ ketch and participated in many sailing and navigation events sponsored by USPS and NOAA on the Neuse River, the US and British Virgin Islands, and prior to that near the Outer Banks. She earned the Squadrons’ highest status as a “Senior Navigator” in 2003. She and her husband traveled extensively in Europe and spent one of his sabbatical leaves in Kiel, Germany in 1968 where Sharon entered first grade and mother and daughter acquired German language skills.
Elizabeth is survived by her husband Arthur T. Alt, her daughter Sharon Arrington and her husband Philip Arrington, her twin sister Jane Gibson, her grandchildren Amanda Corbett and Forrest Corbett, as well as extended members of both families.
A memorial service will be held 11:00 a.m. Saturday, September 17, 2016 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Durham, Rev. Robert K. Kaynor will officiate.
The Alt family is under the care of Hall-Wynne Funeral Service. Online condolences: www.hallwynne.com, select “obituaries.”