Betty Jo Simpson, the Instagram sensation known as Grandma Betty 33, died on Aug. 2 of lung cancer. She was 80.
Earlier this year, Zach Beldon, 18, of Jeffersonville, Ind., created an account on Instagram to share pictures of his great-grandmother and her battle with cancer.
“The idea was to start an account for my friends who know Grandma Betty,” Beldon said. “And it turned out to be something everybody started to enjoy.”
Over the course of the next seven months, more than 690,000 people followed the joyful octogenarian, liking and sharing photos of her adventures. From sitting on a motorcycle:
… to dressing up as a clown:
… to sharing her blue-tinted tongue after eating candy:
One of the most popular posts involved Simpson dancing to Pharrell Williams’ hit song, “Happy”:
Simpson said she enjoyed becoming “the world’s grandma,” but she also hoped her advice would help others.
“You have to love people,” she said. “I mean from your heart out, just not from your mouth.”
On her Instagram page, Simpson described herself as a resident of Jeffersonville, Ind., a cancer fighter and a follower of Jesus. But outside of her fame on social media, she was a member of the Shepherdsville Gospel Church and retired from BRB Plastics. Simpson raised three adopted children, and lost both her husband, Clarence Simpson, and her daughter, Billie Pedigo, to cancer.
As her own condition worsened, family members posted updates about Simpson’s health on Instagram. This prompted thousands of strangers to send cards and share their thoughts and prayers of support.
Devyn Purvis was one such fan. She followed Grandma Betty’s Instagram posts and found comfort from them.
“Whatever you do please never shut down her instagram,” Purvis wrote. “I have looked at it every day for as long as it has been up and everyday it has made me smile. She was an inspiration to me.”
Another fan, artist Dagmara Cielecka, drew pictures of the impish Simpson after having a conversation on Snapchat:
Not surprisingly, word of Simpson’s death was first posted on Instagram. The announcement included a picture of her beloved dog Harley, sitting alone in her rocking chair, and the message: “Although Grandma Betty is no longer physically with us, she will forever be in the hearts of the millions of people she touches every single day. Grandma Betty did not lose her battle to cancer, because her legacy she has left behind will inspire millions of people to #Smile, #BeHappy, and #StayHappy no matter what. The fight has ended. The battle is won.”
–Originally published in The Huffington Post.
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