HOUSTON, TEXAS — Betty Abrego Ring, a fifth generation Texan and expert in American needlework and textiles, died peacefully in her home on June 5. Born in 1923 to Nellie Fitzsimmons Abrego and Claude Abrego of Beaumont, Texas, Betty spent much of her childhood along America’s East Coast as the family relocated often to be near her father, who worked as an engineer. Betty returned to Houston to attended Lamar High School and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.
In June of 1942, at the tender age of 19, she married Gregg Ring of Houston, a union that would last more than 65 years and produce seven children. After raising her children, Betty spent much of her life pursuing her interests in history, antiques and the decorative arts. She was a passionate scholar and collector of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American schoolgirl needlework.
An inspired researcher, writer and astute collector, she became one of the foremost experts on the subject of early American needlework, compiling one of the finest collections of schoolgirl embroideries in existence. Betty authored and edited numerous books and magazine articles, including what is still considered the go-to reference book, Girlhood Embroidery, published in 1993. Well respected in her field, Betty was bestowed with many awards and accolades by her peers. She became the subject of many magazine and newspaper articles and was especially proud to receive the prestigious Antiques Dealers Association Award of Merit in 2005.
During her many years of volunteer work in Houston, Betty served as president of the Harris County Heritage Society (now the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park), was on the board of directors of the Houston Public Library and a docent at the Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens. Betty was a longtime member of the Ladies Reading Club, and also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the Colonial Dames of America. She was preceded in death by her son, George Randolph Ring; her grandson, Tyler Nicholas Davidson; her brother, Richard Abrego; and her husband, Gregg Ring.
A dedicated researcher and writer, she possessed a fierce work ethic, solid principles and deep convictions. She will be missed by many; however, she will be long remembered for her extensive body of work of which she was very proud.
She is survived by her children Brian Ring, Loretta Britton Giles, Gregg Ring Jr, Stephanie Davidson, Oliver Ring and Christopher Ring; and grandchildren Gregg Ring III, Laura Davidson, Baker Britton, Melissa Davidson and Oliver Britton.
Betty was laid to rest during a private interment at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. In lieu of customary remembrances, the family requests with gratitude that memorial contributions be directed to a charity of choice.
Remembering Betty Ring
Betty, loved and known by all in the antiques world, was a dear friend and mentor and we cherish the wonderful times we had together. Betty was unfailingly gracious to all the thousands of people she met during her travels as “needlework expert extraordinaire.” Always generously sharing her time and research, answering every inquiry and request, she was a marvel of energy and knowledge.
The massive amount of research she assembled was accomplished the old-fashioned way — by trekking to the area and spending countless hours buried in obscure libraries and historical societies scrolling through old newspapers and documents.
We are all — collectors, dealers and museums — in her debt for the enormous contribution she has made to the field of school girl needlework. Her publications, especially Girlhood Embroidery, will always be the underpinnings for the ever-expanding research on both the subject of needlework itself and women’s education in early America.
We will never forget Betty Ring’s enthusiasm and generosity. She was one of the most talented, gracious and intelligent ladies we have ever met, a gem with many facets. And it is with heartfelt emotion that we remember her friendship.
Stephen & Carol Huber