County mourns loss of Dorothy Burley: ‘A true lady of the community’

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Dorothy Burley, a foundational member of the Patriot Community and public servant throughout Switzerland County, passed away early Sunday morning at her home. She was 87.

Born and raised in the Patriot community, she was the daughter of William and Bertha Martin. Graduating from Patriot High School in 1942, she attended Purdue University and then graduated from the School of Nursing at Deaconess Hospital in Cincinnati, earning her degree as a Registered Nurse.

She also served her country, serving as an Army nurse at the end of World War II.

But along with serving her country, Dorothy Burley’s heart was truly embedded here in Switzerland County, where she returned and began a career serving as the county health nurse – a position she held until she retired in 1967.

That’s where she became friends with Betty Lucas, who serves as the administrator of the Switzerland County Health Department.

“Dorothy was the county health nurse for many years here, and she retired in 1967,” Betty Lucas remembered earlier this week. “In 1976, a grant was written to perform blood pressure screenings in various locations around the county, and I talked with Dorothy and she accepted the position for two or three days a week. She remained in that position for about 20 years.”

Being the county health nurse in a rural area also brought some interesting opportunities.

“Dorothy told me a story about her earlier days as the county nurse,” Betty Lucas recalled. “Dr. Bear was health officer, and they did home visits, including delivering babies. Dorothy received a call one night and was to meet Dr. Bear at a home. She arrived and after leaving her car and walking up a steep hill, the baby was delivered before Dr. Bear arrived.”

Along with her work as the county health nurse, even in retirement she stayed busy in the Switzerland County community.

She served as the vice president of the board of directors of Switzer Square for 25 years; and also served on the board of directors of the Switzerland County Public Library; the Switzerland County Health Board; and was a member of the homemakers club and Patriot Baptist Church.

In 2009, the town of Patriot honored her by naming her as one of the Grand Marshals of the annual Fourth of July parade.

“I think, if I had to use one word to describe Dorothy, it would be ‘gracious’,” longtime friend Jill Hutcherson said. “She was always the sweetest, most gentle woman whom I think I ever met. She met challenges head on, and when she started into a project, she was determined to get it finished. She have her heart to her community, her home, and her church.”

Even after she retired, Jill Hutcherson said that not much slowed Dorothy Burley down.

“Age never seemed to be a limitation to Dorothy,” Jill Hutcherson said. “She took her life as a gift, and she enjoyed everyday. We talked recently and we laughed about her age and she said that she never thought she’d be this old, but she enjoyed life, especially her friends, her family, and church.”

Jill Hutcherson said that she first met Dorothy Burley when Jill moved to the Patriot community in 1965, and said that she was always there in good times and bad, and the Hutchersons always tried to be there for her.

Along with her work, Dorothy Burley had a ‘playful’ side – one that brought smiles to her friends this week.

“I remember one morning on her way to work she was chased from Florence to Markland by a state policeman, who had his siren on and red lights flashing,” Betty Lucas said. “After finally stopping, she got a warning ticket, and when she got to work she told me that she was just listening to the radio and not noticing what was behind her.”

“There was this one time at church, Mike Jones (pastor at Patriot Baptist Church) always had his cell phone on and he had an IU holder for it,” Jill Hutcherson said. “We gave him a rough time about it, because a lot of us were Purdue people. We told him that if he didn’t get a new one, we were going to play the Purdue fight song as the opening song. There were quite a few Purdue people in church that day, and they all said that they were going to get up and sing. And Dorothy said “I’ll sing!”

As much as she loved her community, Dorothy Burley was also devoted to her family.

On May 21st, 1955, she married Nelson Burley, and the couple was married for more than 45 years before his death in 2000.

She is survived by three children: Daughter Sharon and her husband, Vernon Fisher of Topeka, Kansas; daughter Nancy and her husband David Miller of Kirkland, Indiana; and son (Retired) Major Russell Burley and his wife, Nikki, of Ashburn, Virginia.

“She was very proud of her children,” Jill Hutcherson said.

For the past 13 years, she has been devoted to and was accompanied by her dog, “Wally”.

In her passing, the community of Patriot and all of Switzerland County is left with a void.

“She will be missed very much in our community and in our church,” Jill Hutcherson said. “She was a blessing. She attended church every Sunday. She was active in her Sunday School class. She was active in the typical things that churches do: Christmas programs for the children and gathering baskets for people at Thanksgiving and Christmas.”

“Dorothy was a very dear friend of mine and I will miss her terribly,” Betty Lucas said. “She was one of the most respected ‘ladies’ of the community.”

“She was involved when the school was in Patriot,” Jill Hutcherson recalled. “Nancy and Sharon went to school there, and she was involved in all of those activities. Anything you needed her for. She helped collect money at the intersection for the Relay for Life. It didn’t matter what it was, Dorothy would volunteer her time.

“She touched so many people. We’re really going to miss her.”

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For a complete obituary of Dorothy Martin Burley, please see page 3 of today’s edition.