Vera Thiel (Ballegoin) Burgess
Knoxville, Tennessee - Vera Thiel Burgess passed peacefully into eternity on Wednesday, November 24, 2021 at 91 years of age. She was born in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 20, 1930 to John Henry Ballegoin and Helen Margaret (Meyers) Ballegoin. She graduated from South Milwaukee High School class of 1948 and attended Milwaukee State Teachers’ College which was later named University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She majored in elementary education, minored in music and was part of Delta Omicron educational sorority. Upon graduation, Vera taught school in Racine, Wisconsin for 3 years during which time she was dating and then engaged to Robert Lewis Burgess. The two were married in July 1955 at South Milwaukee Methodist Church, Vera’s childhood and family church home, and had 47 years together before she became a widow in 2002. She was an accomplished musician and singer, playing the marimba (from age 10), piano, tympani, glockenspiel (high school marching band), and chimes. She sang in school, her local United Methodist church choirs, and as a soloist in weddings, funerals and social events throughout her life. Vera was very active in parent events for her school-aged children in North Dakota, Tennessee, and New York. In addition, she was a member of the Oak Ridge Home Demonstration group, Tanasi Girl Scouts (Troop 69), First United Methodist Women, and Oak Ridge Civic Music Association. Later, in Syracuse, New York, she joined the Southern Hills Garden Club, St. Paul’s United Methodist Women, Syracuse University Women’s Club, and was a “fill in” for the percussion section of the Syracuse Symphony. Vera loved being together with her family, throwing parties and picnics and had a marvelous gift of hospitality hosting people in her home throughout her life. She always enjoyed visits and spending time with family and friends, even to the very end. Vera was preceded in death by her loving husband, Robert Lewis Burgess, her only sister, Elaine Rose (Ballegoin) Frilstad, her parents John and Helen Ballegoin, and several aunts and uncles. She is survived by her 5 children; daughter and husband, Karen and Ken Thornton of Great Falls, MT, son and wife, Steve and Wendy Burgess of Jamesville, NY, daughter and husband, Susan and Earl Keith of Cookeville, TN, daughter, Ellen Kimball of Knoxville, TN, son, Jonathan Burgess of Atlanta, GA; her 17 grandchildren, Millie (Thornton) and JD Olsen of Great Falls, MT, Isaak Thornton of Bozeman, MT, Lydia, Joshua, Elizabeth, Daniel, Gideon and Caroline Burgess of Jamesville, NY, Abigail (Burgess) and Tyler Burggraf of Tazewell, TN, Hannah, Holly, Megan and Olivia Keith of Cookeville, TN, Jacob, Jenna and Jessie Kimball of Knoxville and Johnson City, TN, and Landon Burgess of Atlanta, GA; her 3 great-grandchildren, Susannah Burggraf, Metta and Jude Olsen, and several nieces, nephews and greats.
A memorial service will be held January 22, 2022 at 1:30 pm at First United Methodist Church, 1350 Oak Ridge Turnpike, Oak Ridge, TN with a reception to follow. Interment will be planned for early summer, TBD, in Syracuse, NY. In lieu of flowers donations can be made in her memory to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital (stjude.org), SARG, Shelter Animal Rescue Group, of Oak Ridge, TN (shelteranimalrescue.org), or SUNY ESF (esf.edu/donate/).