Thelma Lucille (Elliott) Burnett was born June 6, 1922, at Lillian, in Custer County to James Walter Elliott and Minnie Louise Loffel. She and her brother, Harold, grew up in the Lillian community. Thelma went to grade school at Lillian and graduated from Broken Bow High School in 1939; after which she attended Normal Training at Kearney State College to become a teacher. She taught rural schools in Gibbon, Prairie View, and Sunny Dell touching the lives of her students and giving them a firm foundation for learning.
Thelma met her husband, Melvin Orval Burnett, while teaching at Sunny Dell. Melvin trapped and sold a skunk to have money to take the pretty, new teacher to a movie. . . he finally got up the courage to make the "date"; and she said
"Yes!". She again said '"Yes!" Nov. 7, 1943, when they were married at Anselmo.
To this union were born five children; Victor Wayne, Connie Kay, Bonita Rae, Marvin Gene and Sandra Louise.
Thelma was active in the Bethel Union Women’s Extension Club and the Bethel Union Grange. She was a 4-H leader and was active in the First Christian Church.
Her life-long joy was interacting with her children and their life events. She especially enjoyed her grandchildren and great-grandchildren’s many activities - attending baseball games, wrestling matches, softball games, soccer games, piano recitals, dance recitals, school programs, and all the rest.
Her life was filled with love for her family. She loved the Sutherland trips, trips down the Niobrara and later, the annual trips with her girls having so much fun and time together.
Thelma fought a long and hard battle with cancer, but did all she could to still enjoy life. She succumbed to the disease surrounded by family Dec. 11, 2011.
Thelma is survived by her three daughters, Connie (Dave) Stunkel, Bonita (Rodger) Ritchie, and Sandra (Joe) Shea, all of Broken Bow; daughter-in-law, Patsy Burnett of Broken Bow; nine grandchildren, Paul (Mary) Ritchie of Lincoln, Russell Ritchie of Farnam, Pamela (Tyson) Holcomb of Broken Bow, Timothy (Tiffany) Ritchie of Kearney, Michael Ritchie of Merna, Jennifer (J.J.) Russell-Gibbons of Broken Bow, Tyler (Darci) Shea of Eddyville, Justin (Karen) Shea, and Colby (Jessica) Shea, both of Lincoln; 15 great-grandchildren, Morgan and Jace Ritchie, Tandra and Tessa Johnson, Kate and Laney Holcomb, Tasha and Talyn Ritchie, Austin, Trayvin, Dakota and Lane Russell, Jocelyn and Keelyn Shea, and Jameson Shea; sister-in-law, Lucille McCaslin of Sidney; brother-in-law, Clair (Leah) Burnett of Anselmo; many nieces, nephews and friends.
She is preceded in death by her husband and soul mate, Melvin; sons, Victor and Marvin; grandson, Jason; great-grandson, Trace; brother, Harold Elliott, and other family members remembered by us all.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, the Custer County Foundation or the donor’s choice.
Published in Custer County Chief, Dec. 15, 2011