by Marcia Napier, Grain Valley Historical Society
Nearly thirty-two years ago, August 14, 1989, was Winona Burgess Day in Grain Valley. Winona was named Citizen of the Year by then mayor, Kurt Hanneman.
In his speech he noted that Winona had been a member of our community for more than fifty years. He shared a few of her community activities with those present; owner of two businesses, membership in ABWA (American Business Women’s Association), Regent of the Fort Osage Chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), member and past president of WSCS (Women’s Society of Christian Service), Worthy Matron of the Order of Eastern Star and vice-president of PTA. She was also on the Grain Valley Police Board, the Planning and Zoning Board and an Alderwoman in Ward I from 1981 to 1991.
For 18 years, from 1971 to 1989, she was head librarian at the Grain Valley Branch of Mid-Continent Library. You may recognize her name even if you are “new” to Grain Valley. On August 7, 2002 at the Senior Citizens luncheon the conference room at the Community Center was dedicated to Winona Burgess.
Born and raised in Oak Grove, Winona married Floyd Sharp in August 1935, and they made their home in Grain Valley, where Floyd owned the Grain Valley Grain Company. They had one son, David who graduated from Grain Valley High School in 1959. Winona went to beauty school and opened Winona’s Salon of Beauty from 1957-1967. In 1962 she married Charles Burgess.
I knew all about her community involvement, but I knew other things about Winona. I knew her as my intermediate (grades 3-6) Sunday School teacher at the Methodist Church. We had to memorize and repeat a Bible Verse each week at the beginning of our class. If we were successful, we got a gold star to place by our name on the poster in our classroom. Ten gold stars earned us a reward, usually one of her home baked cupcakes!
I also knew her as one of my aunt’s good friends. On some of the days when I would stay with my aunt while mom was at the hardware store, we would walk the block and a half to Winona’s house for coffee or a glass of iced tea. Her living room and dining room were filled with flowers from her garden behind the house. Aunt Opal would always tell me to be careful when we went to her house. Everything was “breakable!”
Today, a few of those fancy vases are on display at the Historical Society Museum. You see, at age 72, Winona was not ready to retire and knit or read books; although she loved to do both of those things.
Winona was the force behind starting the Historical Society and she served as the first president from 1991 to 1993. And when it was time to furnish the inside of our museum, Winona Burgess purchased one of our display cases.
Mrs. Burgess remained active until her death in 2013. She was 95 years-old. When you visit the Historical Society Museum don’t forget to look for one of Winona’s vases.
For more information on the Historical Society, visit www.grainvalleyhistory.com.