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April 4, 1940 – March 3, 2023

Rebecca Joyce Morse Bethea, affectionately known as “Sweetie,” 82, entered eternal rest with the Lord on March 3, 2023. She was born in South Hill, VA, to the late Willie Howard Morse and Hattie Oliver Morse, on April 4, 1940. In 1942, the family relocated to Petersburg, VA.

Rebecca graduated from Peabody High School in 1957. She was employed by Petersburg General Hospital, now Bon Secours Southside Medical Center. After years of dedicated service with Petersburg General, she became the first African American manager of a women’s clothing store in downtown Petersburg known as The Eleanor Shop, where she worked until its closing.  

In the early 1980s, Rebecca joined a rich family legacy of educational service as a Special Education Aide at Petersburg High School. For many years, she supported the physical and academic needs of the students in the “South Wing.” Rebecca transitioned to Westview Early Childhood Development Center as a classroom and bus monitor, she dedicated over 22 years to the Petersburg City Public School students.

She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, Herbert L. Bethea, grandson, Wade Bethea, Jr., and sisters, Hazel Durel and Ruth Thompson.

Rebecca is survived by her loving and devoted children, Terri Morse Ceaser and Wade L. Bethea, Sr. both of Petersburg, and her bonus daughter, Yvette Carter (Brian Jackson) of Hopewell. Sweetie will always be remembered by her loving grandchildren, Candice Hicks (Jamaal) of Bowie, MD, Terrell Morse (Genia) of Charlotte, NC, Whitney Ceaser of Prince George, LaMar Sims (Nina) of North Chesterfield, Lance Sims of Chester, Wyman Bethea of North Carolina, and Melvin Carter III of Petersburg. Her memory will be cherished by her great-grandchildren: Zahnae Morse, Lacy Ward IV, Khloe Morse, Gabrielle Hicks, Carrington Hicks, Logan Ward, Loren Ward, Genell Morse, Gemia Morse and bonus great-grandchildren, Gelale and Gelando Drew and Janiya and Jaquan Moton.

Rebecca is also survived by her dedicated siblings, Elva Hollins of South Chesterfield, Marion Wooten, Barbara Ann Morse, Mildred Owens, and Lillian Morse all of Petersburg, Michael Morse of South Chesterfield, James Jones of Hopewell, Marty Jones of Prince George, Rosalyn Morse of Newport News, Melody Richey (Kenneth) of Augusta, GA, and Cheryl Johnson of Petersburg; her adoring and loyal best friends, Elizabeth Parham (Ronald) of Midlothian, Ester White (Raymond) of Petersburg, and Russell Parham of Dinwiddie; her  devoted nieces and nephews, Kim Morris, Sebrina Owens, Kevin Jefferson all of Petersburg, Dwayne Jefferson of Yokosuka, Japan, and Devon Parham of Midlothian, and a host of additional family members including the House of Ogburn, friends, and neighbors of the Delectable Heights. 

The family would like to thank the doctors and staff of VCU Cardiology, Bon Secours Southside Medical Center Emergency Department and ICU, and Dr. Kadarnath S. Boodram for the great services provided to our “Sweetie.”

Services will be held 11:00 A.M., Saturday, March 11, 2023, at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 418 Halifax Street, Petersburg, VA, the Rev. Dr. Robert A. Diggs, Sr., Pastor, eulogist and Elder Charles Williams, officiating. The interment to follow at Dinwiddie Memorial Park.

J.M. Wilkerson Funeral Establishment, Inc., 102 South Avenue, Petersburg, VA, (804) 732-8911, watch the funeral services live online at