Elliott & Hazel Burnett, Page 1


Sue Terhune (est3739@comcast.net)

James Elliott Burnett was born 27 November 1907 in Lovelaceville, Ballard Co., KY. He was the first child of James Washington and Ora Atwood (Elliott) Burnett. The family called him Elliott but he was known by his friends and fellow workers as Jim.

Elliott 1914 - about 7 years old
In 1919, when Elliott was 12 years old, his family moved to a 100 acre farm in Maxon Mill near West Paducah, KY. He attended the Little Union School and Heath High School in West Paducah. This photo was taken about 1920 when he was 12 or 13 years  old.
This photo of Marie, Elliott, and Dorothy was taken about 1928 or 1929 around the time he married Hazel.

The following story was written by Elliott after Hazel's death and presented by him at her Memorial Service in 1983.


by James Elliott Burnett

Name: Hazel Mary Johns
Born: 21 Dec 1906 in Salem, MO
Parents: Maud E. Willhite Johns and Thomas H. Johns
Siblings: John, Harold, and Jim

Her parents owned 1800 acres of virgin timber farm land on which was a small body of water known as Barnitts Lake. It was a custom for farmers and ranchers by the hundreds to gather there with their families in the summer for a celebration. I understand it became such a nuisance and so destructive, her father put an end to what had become a huge picnic that lasted about two weeks.

Hazel and her brothers had hundreds of children with which to mingle.  Those years on the farm had a profound effect on Hazel. She, Harold, and Jim often got into mischief when their parents went away from the place; no more than what most kids did at some time.

The Johns family moved to Detroit [Wayne Co., MI] when Hazel was about 8 years of age. The family owned and operated an apartment house, about which she related a number of experiences. Hazel attended Detroit grade school and graduated from Old Central High School. The Old Central building is now the Old Main Building of Wayne State University.

Hazel was an excellent athlete and played field hockey and basket ball in school. She later played with other Detroit Edison girl employees sponsored by the Bond Bread Co. There was a time when Mr. Alex Dow was head of Detroit Edison and she related how once she scooted around a "carrier?" on the executive floor and ran smack into Mr. Dow, knocking him down. Apparently he didn't reprimand her so she didn't change her ways.

She had so many anecdotes about her experiences at Edison and other places she worked during summer vacation. Of particular note, was an incident at Bell Telephone Co. where she threw the headphone set at her supervisor and when she quit her job at Saunders [Candy Co.] lunch counter during rush hour. Hazel's brother got her a summer job at the local Gas Co. and took her there in his car. Afterwards, she had such difficulty finding the remote office building and was always late so she fired herself.  
Elliott and Hazel about 1930

I met Hazel in the summer of 1926 when my buddy and I went to a large brick residence to inquire about renting a room. Her mother had extra rooms in the house and, as was the custom of the day, she rented them to out-of-town trade school students. Hazel answered the door when I rang and, to me, she was strikingly beautiful. Needless to say, I rented the room.  Ever afterwards, she didn't remember "seeing" me. Oh well, we eventually became acquainted, started dating, became engaged, and were married on 3 March 1928.

About a year after we were married, we moved into a different apartment.  We had been moved in about two months when I came home to find all our furnishings missing. Hazel was there to inform me that we had moved since I left for work. Needless to say, I was some put out! Hazel had always handled our bills and she determined that we could not afford to rent that place.  So, with the guidance of her mother, whom I dearly loved, we moved into a large old house with several bedrooms which she could rent out and she included meals for some of the roomers. We later bought and operated a small apartment house with 20 apartments. Hazel was a good manager.

In 1933, their first child, James Ray Burnett, was born.
Their second child, Beverly Gail Burnett, was born in 1937. This photo was taken about 1939.
We have two children, James Ray and Beverly Gail. James, the oldest, was born the day after all the banks closed during the 1929/30 Depression.  Shortly after Beverly was born, we moved to 15833 Vaughan [Northwest Detroit area] and lived there from 1938 to the present.

When both children were old enough to go and come from school by themselves, Hazel got a job with the Detroit Board of Education as an emergency substitute regular replacement. She worked for approximately twenty years, 13 of which were at the Preston School at 17th. and Howard. Hazel was an excellent teacher and had a very good record with the Board. She loved all her students. Even those who were naughty in other teacher's rooms were under her control in a short time. She had a personality and bearing that "demanded" respect and co-operation from the children, none of whom were "hard little nuts". While she was teaching, she was also attending Wayne State University in night classes. I finally prevailed upon Hazel to quit teaching and go to school, although she only had eight more hours for her degree. She then began to enjoy herself. She played Bridge nearly every day and joined some ladies groups and associations. If she had spare time, she found something to fill it.

James Elliott Burnett; 1940
Elliott, Beverly Gail, and Hazel; 1954

During almost 30 years of our life together, my job required me to travel to customer's plants, offices, etc. Only once, in all that time, did Hazel call my office to ask where I was so she could talk to me about something.  My office marveled at her because the wives of about 20 other engineers called every week.

A friend got her involved with the N. W. Grace Hospital Aux. She started going around with the cart through the floors, selling needed things to patients in the rooms. Soon she became part-time supervisor. Next, she worked part-time in the surgical lounge and soon was put in charge of the Aux. Personel for the Surgical Lounge. She asked her friends, acquaintances, and others to give time to the effort and eventually had over 30 volunteers sharing the work. She was always a good organizer.

After a few years at the hospital, she began to have health problems. She first had a hip replacement which went well. She continued with activities for a while but her heart, stroke, and circulation problems slowed her down and she was house-bound for several  years.  Hazel spent a lot more time in hospitals than she liked. Our family specialist told me, people in her condition often lived for only two years. 

Elliott and Hazel; 1971

We spent the last 10 years taking care of each other. Hazel died 7 Oct. 1983 at 11:00 a.m. in Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital [Detroit, Wayne Co., MI]. We were married 55 years, 7 months, and 4 days. At her request, she was cremated.

James Elliott Burnett died 21 April 1990. The following obituary appeared in the Detroit Free Press

James E. Burnett, age 82, April 21. Beloved husband of the late Hazel. Dear father of James R. and Mrs. Beverly Gail. Also survived by several brothers and sisters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Mr. Burnett was an electrical engineer with the Westinghouse Corporation for many years. His gem and mineral collection is currently  being displayed at Cranbrook [Institute in Birmingham, MI].

 James Elliott Burnett; 1987