A Sacred Moment


Joan Gallaher Burreson


May 23, 1945 - March 31, 2017

Remembered most for her laugh, loyalty, love, and amazing chocolate chip cookies

A fantastic woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and aunt, Joan Gallaher Burreson, AKA “Goga,” was born on May 23, 1945. She loved everyone around her deeply. She was open and honest with everyone and had very deep convictions, leading her to be a great advocate for her family, friends, those she taught, and well, anyone within her sphere.  She passed away on March 31, 2017 at 6:40pm. Her family was with her in person and via phone.

She is survived by her loving and devoted husband Bernie, her 3 daughters, Jenny, Jill, and Joy, her 3 sons-in-law, and her 6 (so far) grandchildren.

Her life was filled with accomplishments, she was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. A true Seattleite, she went to Queen Anne High School and attended the University of Washington where she was a sister in the Kappa Delta Sorority. Joan met her husband while attending UW. After college in the late 60’s she and her husband lived in Memphis where she worked as a teacher.  She was the first white teacher at Northside High school, which was a segregated school.  The racial injustice Joan saw in Memphis and her school, appalled her and she became active in the Civil Rights Movement, and on a personal level she did all she could for her students and the people around her. Joan raised her daughters the same way: to be strong and to speak up for those who have no voice
Here are two stories about her teaching time in Memphis stand out clearly for her family.

1. One day, she heard a ruckus outside her classroom. She went to investigate, and found two boys fighting with knives. She yelled at them to stop, and one swung around in surprise andnicked Joanie’s arm with the knife. One of the girls in the classroom, upon seeing blood, ran screaming to the office, all the while yelling, “They’vekilled Mrs. B! They’ve killed Mrs. B!”

The boy who nicked Joanie’s arm had dropped the knife in front of Joanie, so Joanie reached down, picked it up, and went back into her classroom. She put the knife in her purse, and a Band-Aid over the nick. Then she heard the sirens. Police, Rescue vehicles, and the Fire Department all showed up, and came running into her room, expecting to see a dead teacher. However, what the found was Joanie calmly teaching her class.
When questioned, she calmly denied any knowledge of who, or what had happened.

The news of what Joanie had done spread throughout the school, and the kids decided that she was the coolest teacher in the school. They set guards on her car, so that no one could even come near.

While there, we ended up picking up car loads of students and driving them to football and basket ball games, where we would sit on the school side. Being white in school of a nearly 100 % black student body, we stood out, and would get glared at by the white school opponents.

2. One of Joanie’s classes, that she taught, was US History. The books that she was using were hand-me-down, battered and used books from the white schools in Memphis. The history books ended with the Korean War, which was early 1950s. Joanie wanted better books, but Memphis could not “afford” them, so Joanie called the Rand McNally book makers, and explained her situation. In about a week, a large truck pulled up to her school, and unloaded free books for the school. The truck driver told the principle that all the books were for Joan Burreson. Needless to say, the principle got frightened, until the truck driver told him that they were all free, courtesy of Rand McNally.
Her love of working for others continued as she moved onto teaching preschool and helping those who struggled. This tradition has also been passed to her daughters as two are teaching in special education and one is a psychologist. Joan’s legacy will continue on and not be forgotten.

All this and she will be remembered most for her laugh, her loyalty, her love, and her amazing chocolate chip cookies.

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