Genell Margaret Caldwell Burnette
“Generous and Loving to All”
Canton - Genell Caldwell Burnette, age 97, passed away peacefully and entered her heavenly rest on August 21, 2022.
Her life story began on a summer day, June 17, 1925, in the Beantown area of Haywood County. She was born into a family that traces her roots back many generations in Haywood County, even to a family (Owen) she would later work with as her life unfolded. She was the youngest of nine children born to D. A. “Alden” Caldwell and Margaret Rathbone Caldwell. Her father Alden (who was born the year after the Civil War ended in 1866) welcomed his last child when he was almost age 60, and mother, Margaret was 41. In 1930 as the Great Depression enveloped Haywood County, Mr. Caldwell (at age 65) moved the family to a 100-acre farm along the Hiwassee River in Murphy, NC. Here Genell would work the fields from an early age as part of her sharecropper family. Genell grew up attending Murphy High School where she played basketball and worked at the local movie theater seeing many classics as new releases. Some of her older sisters had moved back near Canton, so after graduation she returned to the area living with her sisters.
She started to work temporary for Dr. Robert H. Owen and his wife Dr. Margaret L. Owen, filling in for a lady that had taken a leave of absence to have a baby. Little did she know this job would soon become permanent as the lady never returned and Genell worked for almost 45 years with the Owen family. Doc Owen trained her as a physician’s nurse assisting in all surgical procedures in the office such as (if you can believe it) tonsillectomies. She gave shots, took blood pressures and drew blood. In addition to her nursing responsibilities, she answered the phone, checked in patients and kept the books and even did some of the custodial duties. She was the original multitasker. Countless people encountered her sweet disposition and loving ways. As mentioned earlier, she would discover through genealogical research she was related to the Owen family through her mother.
One day while she was on a tour of the Champion paper mill, she kept noticing a gentleman appearing at various points in the mill. This handsome Army Sergeant (back from WWII) was taken by Genell’s beauty and through a mutual friend arranged to meet her. Sparks soon flew and after a relatively short courtship, she married Jesse Albert “Hoss” Burnette Jr. in 1948. Genell was soon caught up in Albert’s passion of Walker dogs and foxhunting, accompanying him to various field trials where he rode horseback, competing and later judging competitions.
Life soon dealt her a blow as she contracted polio in 1949 and was quarantined at the polio facility in Asheville where she credited her recovery (with little to no lasting effects) to Dr. Owen’s innovative treatments. She and Albert welcomed their first child, Michael Albert Burnette, into the world in 1953, delivered by Doc Robert, who had the unfortunate news Michael would not live long. After this heartbreaking loss, some years later they welcomed a son, David Albert Burnette into their home in 1961. At over age 40 Genell had their daughter, Mary Genell Burnette in 1966. As the children grew, many summers were spent in Maggie Valley at the old cabin and visiting Ghost Town in the Sky.
In 1970 tragedy struck again with Genell getting breast cancer. After surgery at Bowman Gray (Baptist Hospital) and no further treatment, Genell returned to work and family. Unfortunately, in 1974, Genell had breast cancer again and after another successful surgery, she returned to work and her home on Chinquapin Ridge. Genell always gave God the glory for her recovery because at the time of her cancer it generally considered a death sentence.
In addition to caring for others in the medical field, she also was the caregiver of the family taking her mother (Little Granny) into her home to care for her until she passed on. Genell always loved her family and was the glue that kept everyone connected throughout the years. The Caldwell reunion was held every year around Genell’s birthday and went on until most of the siblings had passed away. She was the last of her siblings and was loved dearly by anyone who got to know her. Genell embodied Christ’s love always putting others first. She was the humblest person you would ever meet and had a smile that would welcome anyone. She was truly beautiful inside and out.
She was preceded in death by her husband of 57 years, Jesse Albert Burnette Jr., an infant son, Michael Albert Burnette, father, D.A. “Alden” Caldwell, mother, Margaret Rathbone Caldwell, sisters, Faye Smith, Fanneta Taylor, Pearl Allen, Valerie Hembree Bassell, Phoebe Hartness, brothers, Brown, Reece and Kenneth Caldwell. She is also preceded in death by two great grandchildren, Eleanor Burnette and Lena Isabelle Smith. Left to cherish her memory is her son, David Albert Burnette and wife Diane, daughter, Mary Burnette Medford and husband Norman, grandchildren, Casey Burnette (Becca), Jessie Burnette (Megan), Jimmy Burnette (Becca), Becky Burnette Smith (Patrick), Amy Medford Rathbone (Joseph), and Austin B. Medford. Great grandchildren are Pearl Burnette, Iris Burnette, Faye Burnette, Cora Burnette, Branson Burnette, Jeremiah Burnette and Ellie Burnette. Genell also leaves behind many nieces and nephews all who loved Aunt Ginny.
The family would like to express their gratitude to all the wonderful folks at Arrowhead Cove Rehab and Silver Bluff Nursing Facility for the wonderful care and love shown to Genell over her 6 years there. She loved you all, as she did countless others throughout her life.
A celebration of Genell’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Friday August 26, 2022, in the Canton Chapel of Wells Funeral Home with Pastor Jason Miller officiating. Burial will follow at Morning Star Cemetery on Dutch Cove Road. The family will receive friends from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. prior to the service at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Morning Star Community Cemetery Fund P.O. Box 1746, Canton, NC 28716.
The care of Mrs. Burnette has been entrusted to Wells Funeral Home of Canton.