Foundation gift will add to local 4-H leader’s contributions

Marie Burgess shared her love of sewing with countless young girls — and some boys — through her many years of service with the Jackson County 4-H program.

Burgess died from cancer in April 2013, but her legacy as a supporter of 4-H and a dedicated seamstress will live on for years to come as a result of the Jackson County 4-H Council creating the Marie Burgess Memorial Sewing Award that summer.

The effort received a boost this month when her husband, Dr. William “Bill” Burgess, opened a new fund at the Community Foundation of Jackson County to benefit the program. It is called the Marie Burgess Memorial 4-H Sewing Award Fund.

“This was important to Marie,” Bill said in explaining his wife’s dedication to youth and 4-H sewing projects.

“I want to make sure that passion continues,” he added of his decision to start the endowed fund. It will provide earnings to finance the purchase of a sewing machine that is awarded to the 4-H’er judged to be the county’s top sewer at each year’s Jackson County Fair.

Marie was a part of 4-H as a member growing up in Lawrence County, worked with her children when they were in 4-H and served as a 4-H adult leader for more than 35 years, sharing her extensive knowledge and love of sewing and quilting with area children.

“She cherished the opportunities 4-H allowed her, such as the 4-H Round-up at Purdue University and the Indiana State Fair Leadership conferences,” Bill said. “She not only participated in projects in the area of family arts, but she carried on a family tradition — that of showing cattle. Like her father and grandfather before her, Marie won the grand champion steer competition.”

Marie spent 25 of those volunteer years in charge of 4-H clothing projects, overseeing sewing workshops and organizing the annual judging and 4-H fashion revue at the fair. As a 4-H leader, Marie founded the Leftovers Club in 1977 and later worked with the Cousins and Friends 4-H Club.

Bill, a retired dentist who practiced on North Broadway Street in Seymour, remains active in another passion that the couple shared — mission work in Haiti. He plans to make a trip to the island nation this month with the goal of finalizing establishment of a dental clinic.

The Marie Burgess Memorial 4-H Sewing Award Fund is the newest started at the foundation. Earnings from the endowment will be granted to the Jackson County 4-H Council to ensure that the sewing award continues in perpetuity as a memorial for Marie.

The fund joins 46 other designated endowed funds that benefit charitable agencies and programs that help people of all ages across Jackson County. We’re happy that Bill thought of us to help him meet his desire to honor Marie and help the youth of our community.

Endowed funds such as the Marie Burgess Memorial 4-H Sewing Award Fund, The Shelter Fund and the Jackson County Community Endowment provide grant dollars annually to designated programs as well as emerging needs through the foundation’s fall grant cycle and community impact grants.

Grant dollars are generated by prudent investment of gifts to the foundation, such as that made by Bill to start the Marie Burgess Fund. Investments not only generate grant dollars but also protect each fund’s gifts against inflation, working to retain their value over the years.

Dan Davis is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Jackson County. For information about donating to the foundation, call 812-523-4483 or send an email to