Maxine Ellen McGowan Burdett passed away on August 22, 2012 in Indianapolis.
She was born August 30, 1920, in Terre Haute to Jesse and Thelma (Russell) McGowan. She was raised from age five by her maternal grandparents, Amelia (Wiggins) and James Pedan, of Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Maxine attended Lincoln Elementary School for “colored children” and then Crawfordsville Junior/Senior High School through grade eleven. She married Murray Burdett at age 16. Their 39 year-union resulted in six children: Albert, Carolyn (Norvell), Joyce (Nichols), Charlotte (Lillard), and Vivian (Neal); 19 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.
Maxine cared for her family, and was a domestic worker for several local families. Maxine secured her first assembly line position in Illinois, and moved on to Northside Nutrition Site, in Crawfordsville, where she retired after 15 years. Outside of work and family, Maxine demonstrated a strong commitment to the Crawfordsville community. She was an active member of the VFW Auxiliary, American Legion Auxiliary, Senior Citizen Club, Christian Nursing Service and American War Mothers. As a senior who had a youthful zest for life, Maxine was actively involved in the Regional Senior Olympic Games for many years. She also enjoyed sewing, crafts, Bingo, card games, and other activities, especially with friends. When her children were young, she was content to participate in school activities, sports events, and Girls Scouts with them. She also lent her leadership skills to helping those extra-curricular activities function. It was evident that she was a “social butterfly” who could bring life and laughter to almost any situation. Even in her later years, she was the president of the resident counsel for Hooverwood Jewish Home, the nursing facility where she resided, and was described by others as the “life of the party.”
From an early age, Maxine’s grandmother took her to church and stressed the importance of service in giving. Maxine was baptized in Sugar Creek at 13 years of age. Her grandmother’s teaching carried over into her adult life as she was a faithful member of Bethel AME and Second Baptist Church at different times over the course of her years. She spent a great deal of time organizing church activities, leading Sunday School classes, and working to ensure her own children were involved. Maxine was a catalyst for social change in Crawfordsville. A courageous woman with strong convictions, she was the first African American in the town to integrate Tuttle School, Girl Scouts, and the American War Mothers. She also took a bold stand for improved race relations and civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s. Her honor as the “Rosa Parks of Crawfordsville” is truly deserved.
A woman devoted to those she loved, Maxine diligently kept in contact with her entire family. Amazingly, she remembered each individual’s date of birth and always wished them a happy birthday. She also found a hobby in taking photos and had a collection of pictures too numerous to count. The thousands of phone calls, letters and cards she sent over the years were a blessing to many. Maxine is survived by siblings, Clemmie Baldwin of Trotwood, Ohio, Janet Lattimer of Dayton, Ohio and Marilyn Bradfield of Trotwood, Ohio, five children, and a host of grandchildren and others she adopted into her family.
Visitation will be from 11 AM to 1 PM Monday at First Baptist Church, 1905 Lebanon Road, with celebration services at 1 PM led by Pastor Kenneth Wilson and Pastor James Foster. Burial will follow at Oak Hill Cemetery Grant Ave. Arrangements were entrusted to Burkhart Funeral Home.