Editorial: Thank you, Jeanne Burr, for giving back

Jeanne Burr said it herself.

"Deep inside, I've always believed in giving back."

And give back to the community that she loved so much, she did, in a number of important and remarkable ways.

Burr, who passed away on May 13 at the age of 93, delighted audiences for many years with her radio show "Coffee Time with Jeanne Burr."

She was also known for her volunteer efforts with many community organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters; the American Red Cross; the United Way of Northwest Georgia; Friendship House; the Boy Scouts and the PTA.

And she had a well-known passion for the arts, and desired to share that love of the arts with the community.

"She wanted to make the arts accessible to everyone," said Amanda Brown, executive director of the Creative Arts Guild. "... She believed the arts should be welcoming and engaging. She celebrated and appreciated many cultures and many approaches to the arts."

That included the importance of art for children.

"Arts gives children awareness," Burr said. "It can stimulate the imagination. It can be eye-opening for a child. I think kids are over-scheduled these days. They need time and opportunity to use their imaginations and dream."

Burr was not only a benefactor of the arts, but a performer as well. She was a performer with the Dalton Little Theatre and a patron of it and the Creative Arts Guild.

"Every time that I saw her, almost every conversation we had, she asked, 'What can I do for the Dalton Little Theatre?'" said Dalton Little Theatre President Joey Parrott.

"My best friend was Bernice Spigel (the long-time executive director of the Guild who helped to found the organization)," Burr recalled. "So, I was also involved with the Creative Arts Guild, from its very beginning."

Thus it came as no real surprise then when Burr determined at the age of 90 that she wanted to give back even more to the community she loved with a major gift of some sort.

She and her son Jeff had a discussion with David Aft, president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia.

"We talked about the arts in Dalton, and we talked about opportunity and inclusion — all of which are so important to us," she said. "David talked to us and guided us through the process without an agenda. And after listening to us and taking notes, he looked up and said, 'What about building a park in downtown? A park for musical and cultural events?' Once he said it out loud, we knew that was what we wanted to do."

The result was a $1 million donation for a performance venue at the site of the old Lee Printing building on Hamilton Street.

"I got so much from the performing arts. I still do," Burr said. "That's why this park and the performing arts stage are so important to me. I want others to experience the power of watching a performance, or performing themselves."

That is how many people came to know her name — from the Burr Performing Arts Park — and that is how generations to come will learn of her impact on the Dalton community, through enjoying events at the park and learning about its benefactor.

By giving back in such a way, Burr set an example for all of those who are so blessed, so that they can examine ways that they can similarly impact their community.

The gifts may be small, or large, as Burr's was.

But it's the "giving back" that matters.

Thank you, Jeanne Burr, for this important reminder. Thank you for all the lives you touched throughout your life with your gracious, caring nature, and for all the lives you will continue to touch as the Burr Performing Arts Park continues to shine in downtown Dalton through the years.

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