Longtime Lufkin educator, track coach Willie Mae Burley dies

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Longtime Lufkin High School educator and track coach Willie Mae Burley died Thursday night, according to family friends.

For years, Burley ran the girls track program and kept up with athletes long after retiring.

Burley also served several years as a school board member and board secretary for the Lufkin Independent School District in the 1990s and early 2000s.

She also gave considerable time as a volunteer at area hospitals and was a member of the Top Ladies of Distinction. She was also a member of the Lufkin Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.

Burley was also listed as a congregant at First Missionary Baptist Church in Lufkin.

In 2006, she was named a "Hero for Children" by the Texas Board of Education. The Board established the award program in 1994 to recognize individual contributions to public school education in Texas. The Lufkin Independent School District later awarded her with a plaque in recognition of volunteer service.

Burley was also a volunteer in the HOSTS program for Brandon Elementary third grade students. She also mentored young people in the Gear Up program at Lufkin Middle School.

She was the widow of the late Ecomet Burley, for whom a new elementary school in Lufkin is named.

A cause of death was not given for Burley, who was in her late 80s.

Details on funeral services are pending.

A flag flying at half staff over Burley Primary serves as a reminder of the legacy educator Burley leaves behind.

"Very rarely find a uniter and she was that and just its complete essence," said Principal Jason Davis.

Named in her husband's honor, Burley Primary was built three years ago.

Now school officials are hoping to add her name to the building.

"Adding her name to it would also add her legacy and her spirit and frankly her love of children as a reminder of what she stood for," Davis said.

For Lufkin ISD Superintendent Roy Knight, the loss of his mentor of 35 years comes as a shock.

"She was the kind of mentor that leaves a lifelong impact," Knight said. "Her devotion to children will be felt for generations in this community."

Knight says burley was always concerned about her students--always seen working tirelessly, teaching and coaching.

"The epitome of unselfish giving to others," Knight said. "She would spend time calling families to remind them that deadlines were due for scholarships well beyond their years of service to our district."

Until her death, Burley gave considerable time to the her community -- volunteering at schools, churches, and even local hospitals,

"Gracious and dignified would be my best characterization of her," Knight said.

Services for Willie Mae (Price) Burley, 87, of Lufkin, will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 4, 2012, in the First Missionary Baptist Church, 410 Scarbrough St., Lufkin, TX. Interment will follow in the Cedar Grove Cemetery

Friends are invited to visit with the family from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday evening at Gipson Funeral Home.

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