Photo and Story
By Hank Bond
The Greenup Beacon
When Della Burton celebrated her 99th birthday this month she could reflect on a great deal of change which has taken place in Russell and the area around where she has called home the last 96 years.
She was born in Hinton, West Virginia to Jack and Della Sweet on October 11, 1915.
Her mother and father moved to Russell in 1918 – when she was three – as he worked for the C&O Railroad.
Della graduated from Russell High School in 1933 and married her late husband Edmond in 1941.
She has been a dedicated member of Mead Memorial United Methodist Church since first attending at 3-years-old. In fact, Della is one of three 90-years-old plus ladies in the church.
Della, whose daughters Mary Ellen Griffith and Celeste McClanahan are the center of her world, is also the proud grandmother of four with six great-grandchildren and one on the way.
Della was a stay at home mom but was an active member of the school PTA, the United Methodist Women and worked with local Girl Scouts.
After marrying Edmond, who passed away in 1974, while he served in the Merchant Marines in New York during the war she would travel north to be with him but has always continued to call Russell home.
One of the most profound memories of her time in Russell was the 1937 flood when she and her family members welcomed some victims, including the Wimmers, into their home until waters receded and the town slowly began to recover.
As a new bridge is being built which spans the Ohio River in Russell, Della can vividly recall when the current span was built. She can remember riding a boat from Russell to Ironton.
The span in place opened in 1922 – and she walked the bridge on many occasions as did her daughters as they were growing up.
Della is no stranger to personal injuries has she has had falls breaking both hips on separate occasions and a third fall which resulted in a broken pelvis.
A regular church attendee Della also enjoys visiting the Russell Senior Citizens Center two times each week for an intense game of cards. In fact, when doing the interview, Della’s card partners waited patiently while she quietly answered questions.
A fond memory for Della included going to the movies – even in the day when Charlie Chaplin brought roars of laughter from audiences from the silent screen and strains of music filled the theater from the keys of a piano – played by a high skilled pianist.
In 1977 Della was a member of the Roadrunners Club, an organized traveling organization, and was inside the Beverly Hill Supper Club the night many lost their lives to fire on that tragic night of May 28. Fortunately, she and those with her were able to escape.
As she continues to enjoy the days of her life it’s quite possible she’ll be able to see the 1922 bridge as it falls into the river after demolition – and take a ride across the new span when in opens.
Until then, as she approaches the century mark, she plans to take life one day at a time.
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