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Helen Marie Burcham

August 15, 1925 — May 2, 2023

Helen Marie Burcham, age 97, of Shawnee, Kansas, formerly of Garnett, Kansas passed away on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Garden Terrace of Overland Park.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" was one of the rules Helen Marie Burcham had for her children. This obituary is long because there are plenty of nice things to say about Helen. She was such an amazing person that God kept her on the planet for 97 years. She came from good stock. She was born August 15, 1925 in rural Anderson County near Bush City - the first-born daughter of long-time residents of Garnett, Kansas: Delbert Perry Burris (who died in 1989) and Polly Agnes (Sherwood) Burris (who died in 1981). Helen's brothers: Lloyd and Lester died in 2008 and 2014. Her sisters: Thelma and Ruby are still with us. Helen and her husband, Roy (who died in 1986) raised four children: Lloyd Marion Burcham (who died this year in February) and Cheri Lynne Burcham (who died in 1979) and daughters: Karen Heidemann and Janet Curtis. She had five grandchildren: Lloyd's son: Brandon, Karen's children: Casey and Kim, and Janet's children: Jarrett and Jenna. Helen had four great-grandchildren: Brandon's children: Kiersten, Brekken, and Ryker; and Kim's daughter: Leia. She had one great-great-grandchild: Kiersten's son: George.

Helen was the kind of mom who came home from work, threw in a load of laundry, fixed dinner (including dessert!) and spent quality time with her family. She loved to sew, and all four kids benefited by having shirts or dresses fitted exactly to us in just the styles and fabrics and colors we wanted. Her skills were so high, that she could make lined coats, and wedding dresses that passed for store-bought. Later, she branched out into appliques and embroidery done on specialty sewing machines - making sweatshirts and fabric photo albums. She was the kind of mom, who didn't just tell us to try to go as far as we could in school, she demonstrated that it could be done with four kids and a full-time job, by taking college classes at night that furthered her civil service career. She was the kind of mom who, after delivery of a new refrigerator, took the large leftover cardboard box and cut doors and windows in it for a playhouse, and left it up in our living room for several weeks. Helen allowed herself only one luxury - going to the hairdresser once a week - then wrapping her head at night so that her French roll style coiffure would keep.

Helen grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. She attended Kansas schools: Willow Branch, Minkler, Bush City, Kincaid and Garnett High School. She didn't like to waste anything and saved nearly every document she had. Living in rural Kansas, she was a member of 4-H (Head, Heart, Hands, and Health). She cooked and she sewed her own clothes.

In Kansas, in 1943, Helen was able to teach elementary school with just a high school degree and passage of the Normal Training Examination. She continued to attend classes at several colleges toward earning her Teacher's State Certificate: Kansas University, Central Missouri State Teachers' College in Marysville, Kansas State University, and Northwest Missouri State Teachers College. She taught at Dawson School in Northwest Missouri. And, she taught school at Keokuck, in Linn County near Centerville and Bush City.

Helen met her future husband, Roy Burcham, while teaching at one of these schools. Roy watched his older brothers go off to war while he stayed with his parents on their farm. Finally, on August 22, 1945 he joined the army and World War II ended eleven days later. Roy still had to finish his tour of duty. While Roy was in the army, Helen headed to New York City for her own adventure. She had secured a job with American Airlines as a ticket agent, working at La Guardia Airport.

Roy returned to Kansas - after serving as an automotive electrician for military vehicles in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre. He was discharged from the army on January 3, 1947; and one month later, he and Helen were married at the Centerville Kansas Church on February 2, 1947. Roy and Helen moved to Northwest Missouri, and eventually to Bonner Springs, Kansas, where they built their home. They enjoyed the outdoors and traveling and made trips to Canada, Alaska, Mexico and many of the 50 states.

As the children were growing up Helen was active in PTA, was a 4-H leader and was a member of some sewing groups. All four children graduated from Bonner Springs High School. In 1965, as the children were now older, Helen tried her hand at motel management in Clinton, Missouri. But her long-term career was not to be there, but in work as a federal employee. She worked for the Department of the Army for eighteen years, nine at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. After moving to Tucson, Arizona, she worked for nine years at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, achieving the rank of GS12 in civil service. During her career, Helen took many training courses with the Civil Service and attended college classes at night. She received several awards and commendations in her job as a technical publications writer, editor, and program manager for the U.S. Army. Her position was classified, at one point her desk was inside a vault, but she did share once that she had the unique opportunity to ride in a U.S. Army tank as part of her training to be able to write and edit technical manuals. She retired before the twenty-year mark to take care of her husband, Roy, when he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and died in 1986.

Following Roy's death, Helen moved back and forth from Kansas to Arizona several times. Sewing had always been one of her passions; and in March of 1998, she opened her own Sewing and Embroidery shop called Thread Designs in Garnett, Kansas. An accident - a fall down some stairs at home - with a long recovery time - caused the closing of her shop. This did not keep Helen from working. In the summers she worked at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and Denali National Park, Alaska. It was at Grand Teton National Park where she met Davie D. Davidson. They married January 20, 1992 and he passed away five months later from a stroke on June 3, 1992.

After a deer bounded in front of her car in Wyoming - causing a car accident, Helen finally retired. She reported that some of her lady friends in their 60's and 70's were afraid to drive at night, so, at 80 years old, she would volunteer to be the one to drive to Eastern Star meetings.

After caring for her father, who had Alzheimers, Helen worried that she, too, might eventually have memory problems. She lived long enough for this to come true in the form of vascular dementia; and her final years were at Garden Terrace in Overland Park, Kansas, a memory care facility. She remained physically active and participated in many of the activities provided there, and enjoyed visits from her family. She continued her ability to "live in the moment." We will all miss her dearly.

Memorial services will be held at 1:30 PM, Thursday, May 11, 2023, at the First Christian Church of Garnett, Kansas. The family will greet friends from 1:00-1:30 PM prior to the service. Inurnment will follow in the Centerville Cemetery, Centerville, Kansas. Memorial contributions may be made to the First Christian Church and left in care of the funeral home. Condolences to the family may be left at www.feuerbornfuneral.com .
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Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation with Family Present

Thursday, May 11, 2023

1:00 - 1:30 pm (Central time)

First Christian Church - Garnett

200 South Walnut Street, Garnett, KS 66032

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Memorial Service

Thursday, May 11, 2023

1:30 - 2:30 pm (Central time)

First Christian Church - Garnett

200 South Walnut Street, Garnett, KS 66032

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Inurnment

Thursday, May 11, 2023

2:30 - 3:00 pm (Central time)

Centerville Cemetery ( Linn County)

5548 West 1350 Road, Centerville, KS 66014

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