WHITE OAK — John Burney has spent 65 years of his life — which now spans 102 years — devoted to making his White Oak community a better place, a task he chose to accomplish through the Ruritan Club. For more than six decades, Burney served the people around him as a Ruritan, and, on Tuesday, club members, family and friends gathered at his home to recognize his longevity.
“You’re leaving a legacy that will be hard to match and hard to follow,” Ruritan National Director Linward Hedgspeth told Burney before presenting him a plaque reading “Ruritan National … acknowledges John Frank Burney for 65 years of unselfish service and commitment to Ruritan and to the community as a member of the White Oak Ruritan Club.”
Burney also had, on a nearby table, a framed certificate for 50 years of Ruritan service and another for being a charter member of the White Oak Ruritan Club.
“This is really a treat for the whole family,” said Burney’s daughter, Bonnie Meeker. “We’re honored to still have him around at the age of 102, and we’re honored to know that other people see that he’s a man who stands for morals and believes in things that are right.”
Over the 65 years that Burney has served as a Ruritan, he has seen scholarships given out to local recipients, victims of house fires helped, Planter’s Day begun and continued, numerous elderly people assisted, and sometimes as many as 70 fruit baskets given out at Christmas.
“He’s always been community-minded,” said Meeker.
He was evidently so community-minded that an organization devoted to outreach recognized his drive, and, in the 50s, Burney went to Ruritan nationals in Louisville, Ky.
Mary Stokes, whose late husband, Fulton Stokes, served as Ruritan National president in 1960, was present for the award on Tuesday and said of Burney, “He’s a good Ruritan. He held many offices, and he’s been a good leader in the community.”
When asked why he stayed with the organization so long, Burney answered, “It’s for the community, and I enjoyed it.”
“He’s a man of few words,” Beeker said, “but he’s a people person and enjoys helping others.”
“I hope we can live up to his standards,” she added. “He’s always been a person to love and respect.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.