Marilyn Jean Burkett, 77, passed away on January 27, 2021.
It is our honor to tell you about the exceptional woman we were lucky enough to call “Mom.” Marilyn Jean Sheeley was born to Harold “Red” Sheeley and Viola Finks Sheeley on April 8, 1943. Most people know she grew up in Napoleon, OH and had an older sister Judy Sheeley Hillis - but not everyone knows she was actually known as “Butch” or “Butchie” by family and close friends in Napoleon. Upon marriage in 1962 to George “Denny” Burkett, they relocated westward to find lucrative factory work in the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa where several farm implement manufacturers were concentrated.
Our Mom was a smart, single-minded and determined young housewife who made it a point to stand out from the crowd. Mom chose apparel to elicit a response- with silly caricatures or slogans that were funny or mildly provocative—often sparking a conversation. That’s just how our Mom was – she always had a bubbly disposition or a snappy line for a coworker or passerby. Thanks to our proximity to Chicago, our airwaves were flooded with Cubs baseball and Bears football. She developed a love of the Cubs – oh how she could not wait until they were on TV! This love was rivaled only by another in later years – Jeopardy and Dancing with The Stars which she would gossip about with her closest friend, Adeline Harvey, who still resides in the Quad Cities.
Our Mom was well-respected within our church and community. She loved trying lots of different activities—some shorter lived than others. On several occasions, she tried lifting weights to compensate and build strength after an automobile accident left her injured. During this period, she discovered bowling as an alternative to the weights and soon found herself organizing and in leadership positions on more than one bowling league. As a result, Jim and Ken spent many of their summer days at the bowling alley. There Mom was truly in her element, surrounded by several familiar neighborhood women, smoking a slender cigarette, laughing, and sipping ice cold Pepsi. Often at the center of the group, of course, she would be collecting dues from the ladies and organizing, while adorned in her bowling shirt emblazoned with “Ace.”
Mom became an excellent bowler, anchoring a team to the Illinois State championships with a 165 average. We could watch her mental gears turning as to how she would pick up a challenging 7-10 spare. There wasn’t a challenge she couldn’t overcome on the lanes, where she had mastery of targeting and spin to anticipate an impact zone. She was as prepared and in command as anyone and that confidence spilled over in her knack for making friends and socializing. She would tell stories of the cute little David, how smart Jim was and of the goofy and skinny Ken with his long, curly, bleach blond hair that by-the-way she had bleached and permed herself! Not sure if she ever admitted that in public though!
Yes, Ken was a willing participant and guinea pig during Mom’s cosmetology studies. She spent a couple of years working as a hairdresser in a nursing home, beautifying the elderly female residents. Once again, her humor and willingness to engage made the weekly visit to the beauty parlor a special treat for these ladies. In later years, she started working at Wal-Mart as a cashier and was totally in her element chatting with every customer as she rang them out. In the 20 years working there, she made countless friends, both employees and customers alike. Even as her health was failing and most others would have stayed home long ago, she strapped on her portable oxygen unit and electric scooter and went to work! It was quite a site to see! Mom always loved spending time with her ‘work family’ and never retired.
Our Mom had lived with severe debilitating heart disease for the past 10 years. She shared an apartment with our youngest brother David who dedicated himself to taking care of her in addition to working long hard hours himself. Despite often calling the hospital her second home, she always had a joke and an anecdote ready for the doctors and nurses. After falling badly several times at home recently, she entered a skilled nursing facility to recover from her injuries. There, sadly she passed with COVID symptoms on January 27, 2021. She is survived by her sister, Judy (John) Hillis from Defiance, OH; three children from her marriage to George Burkett, James (Shelly) Burkett of Highlands Ranch CO, David Burkett of Irving TX, and Ken (Conny) Burkett of Southlake TX with their sons, her two grandchildren, Nicolas (21) and Xander (18).
We are glad many of you understand what a special person our Mom was. She will always be remembered for her wit, laughter, and determination - a life lived simply and with great zest. Let’s carry on her legacy by making the people around us feel special – and by making friends wherever we go.
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