PASO ROBLES — Jean Ellen Sindt Burnham, 89, of Paso Robles died on Feb. 8, 2013, in Atascadero.
She was born on Jan. 11, 1924, in Sabetha, Kan., to Waldemar and Mildred Sindt. Jean Ellen, as she was called by her parents, was the oldest of three children. As a child she was introduced to the sense of extended family and heritage, annually travelling with her family to Spirit Lake, Iowa, for family reunions. These regularly recurring experiences set in her heart early a love and appreciation of family, a quality she carried throughout her life.
Jean married Allen R. Burnham in Fort Worth, Tesas, on March 9, 1945, while he was in the Naval Air Corp. They met earlier while both were underclassmen at Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater, Okla. After Al’s recent passing, she shared with her daughters how she’d met him while he was a houseboy in Jean’s sorority house, Alpha Delta Pi. She coyly admitted that she was the only girl at the ADPi House who came to breakfast with her hair done and her makeup on the days that Al worked the morning kitchen shift.
World War II broke out and Jean remained at A&M as Al enlisted in the Navy. He returned to marry her on March 9, 1945, while he was still in the Naval Air Corp. She accompanied him to Naval Air assignments in Ottumwa, Iowa; Clinton, Okla.; and Washington, D.C. Jean was at his side, working at a civilian post within a military complex when he was discharged and they returned to Stillwater for Al to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Jean set about establishing a home for the two of them as Al took a job with Buick in Fort Worth, Texas. It was there, in February 1949 that the first of their three girls was born. Diane Sue was soon joined by sister, Beverly Anne in October 1952 and following a stop in El Paso, the youngest of the daughters, Margaret Lea “Meg,” completed the family Burnham with her birth in 1957 in Olathe, Kan.
Allen’s travel with Buick Motor Division meant Jean was dad and mom to her girls for weeks at a time. Her daughters remember how she tried to keep things as normal when their dad was gone. The one allowance she made in straying from the norm was her feeding breakfast to the trio as a dinnertime entree. Patience was a consistent characteristic in her parenting, even as the growing younger ladies of the house were pushing their limits and declaring their “rights.”
She found time to make the girls clothes as they were in elementary school, and offered a listening ear and available shoulder for each of the three as the family moved from Lenexa, Kan., to Hays, Kans., then to Phoenix, finally settling until Al’s retirement in Thousand Oaks, as they each at different times left behind special friends and experiences.
It was in California that Jean expanded her horizons while remaining the “silent but solid rock” of the Burnham clan. She had dabbled in painting while she was in college, but it became a passion in T.O. For the next several years, fortunate children and close friends and family could expect to receive some of her artwork, and she enrolled in several classes to improve her talent. The love of painting and ceramics stayed with her until her eyesight forced her to put down her brushes just a few years ago.
As her girls got older, she chose to re-enter the work force as the receptionist in a pediatrician’s office for more than 10 years. Little did she realize during those years she would absorb by osmosis medical information she could pass on to her now grown and married daughters who were making her a grandmother.
Her faith in God given to her at the feet of her folks was an important matter to pass on to her girls. She and Al modeled servant hearts that made them valuable additions to every church they placed membership. Generosity and hospitality was expressed naturally but deliberately to any and all with whom they came in contact. Sunday was the Lord’s Day and worship was the activity of the day. She did not leave the instruction of her family solely to others. Jean could be counted on to help staff vacation Bible school, substitute in Sunday school and occasional youth sponsor.
After moving to the Central Coast, Jean was a gracious hostess, welcoming many into her home mid-week for Bible study and fellowship. Additionally, Jean volunteered at the Atascadero Christian Home, doing crafts and art with the residents there and was a mainstay in the monthly preparation of Young @ Heart luncheons at Christian Church of Atascadero, and served alongside Al in her role as deaconess at Cornerstone Community Church.
Jean thought it nothing to give to others; meals for friends of her daughters, casseroles for families facing crisis or loss, desserts for neighbors, just to say she was thinking of them or appreciated them. Her willing sacrifice, especially for family, was never more on display than when she first took her father-in-law to live with them in Thousand Oaks, and then subsequently caring for her mother in her waning years. Even before that she sought to make the birth of every grandchild, and to be as available as their mothers’ desired to help and support in those first days.
In her personal quiet moments her interests were simple; word jumbles in the daily paper, painting at an ever present TV tray, and getting out bowls and spoons as the result of her nightly question, “Who wants ice cream?”
Al passed at the end of January and Jean joined him in their heavenly reward a mere 11 days later.
Jean is survived by a brother, Jim Sindt, and his wife, Nicki of Tucson, Ariz.; her sister, Margaret Hays of College Station, Texas; her three daughters, Diane Young and husband, Marty, of Vernal, Utah; Beverly Hughes and husband, Keith, of Moorpark and Meg Bateman and husband, Gary, of Pottsboro, Texas; six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
A memorial service celebrating her life will be held at Chapel of the Roses Mortuary, 3450 El
Camino Real in Atascadero, on Friday, Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. Pastor Jon Marc Wieman of Cornerstone Community Church will conduct the service. A ceremony placing Al and Jean’s ashes in a wall niche in the Chapel’s Memorial Garden will follow the service.
In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to the Atascadero Christian Home or Cornerstone Community Church.
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