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Mildred Walker Burtnett

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February 20, 1914 - August 16, 2014 Born on a farm in Middletown, Danville Township, Iowa, Mildred Walker was the youngest of nine children of James R. Walker and Nora VanOsdol Walker. Her father, James, was a farmer and breeder of Palomino horses, which were annual blue ribbon recipients at the Burlington, Iowa Tri-State Fair (IA, Ill., MO). Nora VanOsdol Walker, along with her only daughter, Mildred, won many ribbons at the same Fair for her sewing, including crotchet, weaving, knitting, and her canned fruits and vegetables. Mildred attended (on horseback in the winter months) a one room school house in Danville. Her dad had trained one of his Palomino stallions to take Mildred to school, return to the farm, and return back to school promptly at 3 p.m. to give her a ride home, during the winter months. Mildred played point guard for the Danville High School girls' basketball team, and upon graduation, she earned her Bachelor of Nursing and Registered Nursing license at the Burlington, Iowa School of Nursing, which overlooked the banks of the Mississippi River. After nursing at several Iowa hospitals, she became a flight attendant with T.W.A., when it was required for flight attendants to be Registered Nurses. On a cold and snowy February day in Kansas City, she flew to Los Angeles, where it was 75 degrees and sunny. That flight resulted in her leaving T.W.A. to accept a nursing position at Cedars of Lebanon (now called, Cedars Sinai) Hospital in Hollywood. It was at Cedars where she met, and three weeks later married, Joseph M. Burtnett, from Ottumwa, Iowa. Joe was attending UCLA, when the only building on campus was Royce Hall. They were married for more than 75 years. As a nurse at Cedars, Mildred cared for the Bob Hope family, John Wayne, Shirley Temple, and Walt Disney, among others. She later served on the Newport Beach, Orange County Committee to rename Santa Ana Airport after John Wayne. In Los Angeles, Mildred and Joe lived together next door to the LA Coliseum, where they watched the 1932 Olympics. In 1950, they built a house on a one quarter acre orange grove in Downey, California. They are survived by their son, Steven, of Newport Beach, a retired Deputy District Attorney and Judge, and their daughter, Susan Westphal, of Escondido, a retired English teacher, plus three grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. In Downey, Mildred was on the first nursing staff at the Downey Community Hospital and at the Gallatin Medical Group. After their retirement, Mildred and Joe moved to Newport Beach, where Mildred was an active volunteer at Hoag Presbyterian Hospital, the Newport Upper Back Bay Interpretive Center, the Christ Church By The Sea United Methodist Church, the Donna and John Crean Mariners Branch of the Newport Beach Public Library, and the Orange County Republican Party, with her former neighbor, the late Tom Fuentes. As a resident of the Four Fours Community at the Back Bay, she served over twenty years as the landscape committee chairperson; supervising gardening, starting a rose garden, a nine hole putting green, and planting several palm trees which today tower over one hundred feet above the rooftops of the Community. On August, 16, 2014, Mildred passed quietly in her sleep at the Beachside Skilled Nursing Facility, following left femur hip surgery at Hoag Presbyterian Hospital in Newport Beach. She will be interred in a companion crypt, next to her husband of 75 years, Joe, and other members of the Burtnett and Kirchner families, at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery, in Los Angeles. The family has established memorials in her name at St. Jude's Children's Hospital and at Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 22, 2014
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