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Tuesday, March 17, 2020
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Lila Marie Burnette McCurry November 21, 1930 – March 12, 2020 Lila McCurry would have appreciated the way her life ended – holding the hand of her husband to whom she’d been married for 68 years, 8 months and 26 days. She talked often about death, without fear. She knew, based on her deeply-held Christian faith, that when one life ends another begins.
Born during The Great Depression in Madison County, North Carolina’s Upper Laurel region, Lila, a derivative of lilac, was the eldest daughter of the late Ovid Jerome and Altha English Burnette. November 21, 1930, was a Friday, the same day Douglas MacArthur became the U.S. Army’s chief of staff. But in rural Appalachia, no one worried about the rest of the country. The mountain people were focused on providing for their families and trying to make ends meet. Life in the two-story Burnette family home was hard. The family was poor, but it really didn’t bother them. The house had no modern conveniences, and she recalled carrying water from a local spring. She would plant flowers, sow seeds, pick wildflowers, berries and fruits. Her mother taught her how to quilt, a skill that led to 55 years with the Salem United Methodist quilters in Weaverville. Beyond the valuable skills she picked up in the mountains of North Carolina, Lila’s parents showed her the importance of family. She cherished the relationship with her younger sister, Lizzie Kate Burnette Buckner. They not only shared a room but a bed as well. In fact, the relationship was so strong that Lila claimed she was “completely fine” with the extra attention and “petting” her sister got from the family.
In addition to her schooling at places like Bright Hope Elementary and Mars Hill High schools, Lila and her family originally attended Methodist and Baptist churches in the area. She spent inordinate amounts of time at church, with the Bible always central in her life. It was those Madison County congregations that led her to follow Jesus and never turn back. She graduated high school four years after the end of World War II, and her parents moved to Flat Creek to care for an uncle. In June 1950, Lila took a walk down New Stock Road with her mother. They were going to visit the McCurry family, in mourning over the death of a beloved sister and daughter. While the families knew one another, Lila hadn’t met Arthur Columbus “A.C.” McCurry, who had spent most of the early 1940s fighting for the U.S. Army across France and Germany. “She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw,” A.C. said. To the delight of future generations, A.C. offered to start giving Lila rides to her classes at Cecil’s Business College. She accepted and they started dating, often “parking” on Beaucatcher Mountain in Asheville. It was going so well that A.C. proposed to Lila under an oak tree in Madison County off Burnsville Highway. She didn’t say yes immediately, but the couple was married on June 16, 1951, in Weaverville United Methodist Church.
The early years of their marriage were challenging. They initially lived with her parents and moved a few times around the Weaverville area, but the prospect of work in the north eventually took the couple to Detroit, Michigan. By the summer of 1953, Lila was pregnant and she wanted to be back in North Carolina before her son came along. She got her wish, and Arthur “Art” John McCurry was born in February 1954. Together, A.C. and Lila built a home in her parents’ old house on New Stock Road. They joined Salem United Methodist Church, where Lila was a Sunday school teacher, took part in activities with the women's group and attended annual conferences. She was also a member of the PTA at Red Oak Elementary and regularly threw parties. In June 1963, the couple’s second son, Timothy “Tim” Eric McCurry, arrived. By that point, A.C. and Lila had constructed a new house a tenth of a mile from the old one. It would prove to be her last move and the center of the McCurry family’s world.
By 1964, Lila’s husband started working for the State of North Carolina. He was often on the road, which essentially made her a single parent. She simultaneously raised two children, took care of the family farm, ran the house and attended to her social responsibilities at church and her sons’ school. The 1970s brought immense joy to the couple from Flat Creek. Art married the former Pamela Sexton in 1973. They made Lila and A.C. grandparents in 1976 with the birth of Bridget McCurry Gossett. It was 1979 when another granddaughter, Rachel Marie McCurry Houck, joined the family. She shares a middle name with Lila. But the decade wasn’t without its tragedy. Lila lost her beloved sister in 1975. Two years later, she found herself without her father. Lila, like any good daughter, focused on supporting and caring for her mother. The next decade started a lot like the previous. Tim married the former Pamela Huntsinger in 1982. Her first grandson, Kyle McCurry, came along in 1985. Lila then welcomed two more “grandbabies” with Amber McCurry Foy in 1987 and Evan McCurry in 1989.
While Flat Creek was home, Lila loved to travel. A.C. retired in 1985, and the couple started touring the country. They regularly went to Myrtle and Daytona beaches, toured the eastern seaboard and even made a trip to Germany and France to reminisce about A.C.’s days in the war. By 2004, Bridget’s daughter, Emily, arrived. While Lila loved being a grandmother, her life as a great-grandmother was precious. Over the next two decades, she gained five more great-grandchildren – Tyler Gossett, Piper and Dylan Houck, and Killian and Charleigh Foy. Growing old brought challenges for Lila, but her perseverance paid off. She survived a broken back and fought against liver and skin cancer, liver and kidney failure and congestive heart disease. It was part of her life, but her love of family and, particularly, A.C. kept her in the moment. Even when they couldn’t attend church, you would find them reading devotions and singing hymns while they rested together in their recliners.
After her death Thursday, A.C. said, “She is my angel, darling, sweet sweet girl. She was so wonderful. I hope she knows how much I love her. She was the best Christian woman in the whole community, probably the whole world.”
In addition to her parents and sister, Lila is preceded in death by her great-granddaughter Charleigh Foy. She is survived by her children, daughters-in-law, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, along with Bridget’s husband Dan Gossett, Rachel’s husband Jason Houck, Amber’s husband Cale Foy and Evan’s wife Emily McCurry.
Due to health concerns, there will be a private family memorial. A public graveside service will be held at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday March 17, 2020 at West Memorial Park. Anyone wishing to sign the guest book and pay their respects may drop by West Funeral Home between 12:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 16, 2020 (the family will not be present).
INDIVIDUALS WITH A FEVER, COUGH, SHORTNESS OF BREATH, BODY ACHES OR WHO HAVE TRAVELLED OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTRY, PLEASE BE RESPECTFUL OF THE FAMILY AND DO NOT ATTEND THESE SERVICES.
A Celebration of Life at a future date will be announced, and condolences may be offered to the family under Lila McCurry’s obituary at https://WestFamilyFuneralServices.com.