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Cleo Burtner

Cleo Burtner

March 2, 1924 - November 10, 2013

Cleo Belle Wakefield was born on March 2, 1924 in Eddyville, Oregon to Julius Leland Wakefield and Clara Minnie (Bristlin) Wakefield. Graduating from Corvallis High School in 1941, she attended Oregon State College as a Home Economics major and was initiated in Sigma Kappa sorority. She left school in the middle of her junior-year to marry Robert W. Burtner who was in the Navy's V-12 program. For several months, just prior to their marriage, she worked at the child care center at the Swan Island Shipyards in Portland. Cleo and Bob were married March 4, 1945 in Corvallis, then traveled to Evanston, Illinois where Cleo worked as a secretary-receptionist for Rev. Ernest Fremont Tittle at First Methodist Church Evanston, while Bob attended Garrett Biblical Institute. While in the Chicago area, Cleo fell in love with baseball, attending numerous games at nearby Wrigley Field, and became a devoted fan. In 1947 they moved to New York City for Bob's graduate work in theology, and Cleo was secretary in the Dean's Office at the School of Engineering at Columbia University.

They returned to Oregon in 1948 where Bob was appointed to start a new Methodist Church in the River Road area of Eugene. As the "minister's wife," Cleo spent 13 years in Eugene, five years in Salem (as a "district superintendent's wife"), ten years in Portland at Rose City Park Methodist, ten years at First Methodist Corvallis, and 6 years back in Eugene. Although she was never paid, being a minister's wife was a full-time job. She organized Sunday pot-lucks, women's teas, holiday bizarres, breakfast circles for women, taught Sunday-school, attended ecumenical minister's wives groups, sang in the choir, and served on endless conference and local committees. People in the numerous parishes where she and Bob served found her outgoing, exuberant and delightful.

She was also a model of community out-reach. She became a member of the League of Women Voters in the 1950s in Eugene and in 2008 received an honorary life membership for her more than 50 years of involvement. She worked as a teacher's aide at Morningside elementary school in Salem, and then at David Douglas High School in Portland. She was an active member of PEO in Portland, Corvallis and Eugene, and served as the chairperson of the Area Education Committee. In 1973 she was part of a Marxist/Christian Dialog study group which spent two months traveling throughout Europe.

Cleo was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1990 and miraculously made a full recovery. A stroke in 2005 limited her mobility, but through exercise and perseverance she continued to be active for many years.

Cleo's husband, Robert, died in 2011. She is survived by her son David & wife Leona, daughter Shelley & husband Peter, brother Donald Wakefield, grandchildren Adrian, Erik and Evan, step-grandchildren Lori, Jake and Jenna, great-granddaughters Isla and Aubrey, sister-in-law Barbara Weber, and brothers-in-law Gordon Burtner and Len Weber.

A memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church Corvallis on Thursday January 16, 2014 at 11am followed by a light buffet reception.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the .




Published in StatesmanJournal on Nov. 16, 2013
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