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Expanded Clarksville library to bear Burnett name
SoVaNow.com / June 05, 2013
Southside Regional Library Director Leigh Lambert has announced that the Clarksville Area Public Library will be renamed The Burnett Library and Learning Center when a planned expansion is complete. Anonymous donors have committed $100,000 of the estimated $300,000 expansion cost with the provision for the renaming, which has been strongly supported by the Library Trustees as well as the members of the Clarksville Town Council.
The donors wish to honor the numerous contributions to the Clarksville community made by John Benjamin “Benjy” Burnett, Jr., and Joan Andrews Burnett over a period of several decades. “Three of the other libraries in the regional system are already named in honor of local individuals who have made significant contributions to their communities,” said Lambert. “We are deeply appreciative of this signature gift, which will enable the library to offer expanded service to this community for years to come, in keeping with the example provided by the Burnetts.”
“Like progressive libraries elsewhere, we are no longer simply a repository for books. The term ‘learning center’ is being added to the title to reflect the library’s commitment to lifelong learning—to inform, educate, entertain and enhance the lives of patrons now and for generations to come, whether for personal enrichment or professional development. The improved and enlarged facility will open the doors for more computers, programs, presentations, displays, exhibits and meetings. These enhanced resources and services will help us better serve our community’s changing needs,” said local librarian Eileen Barbieri.
The Burnetts have both made indelible marks on their community. Their service records as well as their obvious love for community, family and friends speak volumes about their individual character and their combined enthusiasm.
Burnett passed away on Oct. 28, 2007, at age 65 after a long battle with melanoma. The son of Clarksville natives John Benjamin and Mary Loftis Burnett, he was born on Aug. 20, 1942, and spent his entire childhood in Clarksville, graduating from Bluestone Senior High School in 1960.
He and Joan were married for 41 years, and their family includes two daughters and sons-in-law, Mandy Burnett and husband Brian Hamrick Jones of Richmond and Anna and husband, Richard Scearce Riddle Jr., of Danville; four grandsons, Benjamin Carter Jones and Andrew Howard Jones of Richmond, and Richard Scearce “Tripp” Riddle III, and John Benjamin Burnett Riddle of Danville; Benjy’s brother, James Richard Burnett and wife Lise of Clarksville; and several nieces and nephews.
Benjy was a 1964 graduate of Appalachian State University where he twice led the golf team to second place in the national NCAA tournament. He was also the individual conference champion in 1962. He received his MBA from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Rehabilitative Service in 1968.
Following his graduation, Burnett embarked on a long career in public and community service, working with the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services as a rehabilitation counselor until his retirement in 2003. He was a member of the National Rehabilitation Counseling Association, the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center Advisory Board, the Administrative Advisory Committee and Chairman of the Disabilities Services Board. In 2003 he was awarded the A.R. Dawson Humanitarian Award, a statewide award given for excellence in providing rehabilitation services to Virginians with disabilities.
His professional legacy and love of golf lives on in the Virginia Rehabilitation Association’s annual Benjy Burnett Memorial Golf Tournament.
Burnett also served his community in numerous ways. From 1988 to 1996 he was a member of the Clarksville Town Council, and he served as Mayor of Clarksville from 1996 to 2004. He was also a member of the Southside Virginia Planning Commission and the Clarksville-Lake Country Chamber of Commerce. In 2001, he was appointed by Governor Mark Warner to the Commonwealth of Virginia Board of Conservation and Recreation, and in 2004, the Clarksville-Lake Country Chamber of Commerce recognized his service to the community by presenting him with the Kathleen Walker Lifetime Achievement Award.
Burnett’s advocacy for the town of Clarksville is most notably demonstrated in his leadership on the downtown revitalization project and his advocacy on behalf of the town during the superhighway 58 expansion. He was dedicated to his constituents and valued their input, establishing open town hall hours and submitting a regular column to local newspapers.
An avid golfer, Benjy won the Kinderton Country Club Championship six times, including a win in 2003, when, at age 61, he was the oldest member to ever win the Club Championship.
Born on July 20, 1943, Joan A. Burnett is a native of Dinwiddie County. She graduated from Dinwiddie High School and Longwood College where she studied education. She earned a B.S. degree in secondary education and graduated with honors in 1965.
Joan taught in three public school systems (Newport News, Dinwiddie County and Hartsville, S.C.) before accepting a position in Mecklenburg County teaching world geography, U.S. history and U.S. Government. Her goal was for her students to gain an appreciation of their American heritage and to foster good citizenship. Upon realizing many students did not understand that they could have a voice in their community, she encouraged them to become interested in local government and find out how they could make a difference.
Joan’s pupils were encouraged to get involved. Students attended town councils as well as school board and board of supervisor meetings with assignments to report their observations when they returned to class; this sparked many lively class discussions. As inspiration, they held debates and mock elections and volunteered to work the polls on Election Day.
For several years, her government students formed school improvement committees, appearing regularly before the School Board with concerns and ideas and working on follow-up suggestions made by board members.
Joan’s government classes began each day with a designated student reporting on current events, often including local as well as world news in an effort to keep students informed and knowledgeable. She served throughout her teaching tenure as the student government sponsor, once again working to promote the importance of student leadership. She also sponsored field trips to the Circuit Court and even one trip to the maximum security prison in Mecklenburg.
She retired from teaching in 2003, but her legacy as an educator is witnessed by the fact that at least five of her former students have been elected to their local town councils.
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