A Life Lived: Paul Burleson was a hero to a lot of people

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A poster at a bloodmobile clinic read: “If you’re a blood donor, you’re a hero to someone, somewhere, who received your gracious gift of life.”

Paul Burleson was truly a hero to a lot of people. Burleson, who died Dec. 19, had donated pints and pints of blood, earning him a membership in the Gallon Pin Program of the American Red Cross.

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“He had donated about 15 gallons of blood during his lifetime — pint by pint,” said his sister, Eva Phipps. “When there was a bloodmobile he went, or if someone needed a pint of blood, he gave. He thought nothing about it.”

His being a blood donor went hand in hand with his being a member of the Carter County Rescue Squad. In fact, he was a lifetime member of the squad. Paul was a member of the squad, when it was all-volunteer. “He worked his job at the plant, and volunteered at the squad on his days off. Sometimes he worked his shift and went to the squad to do a shift. He was full of stories about his time with the squad — stories about taking oxygen to someone in need, rescuing the injured from a wreck car, treating someone who had fallen or was suffering from a sudden illness.”

Paul’s daughter, Madelyn, agreed with Eva that he was a good, hardworking man, who did a lot of good things in his lifetime. “He always wanted me and my sisters to do well in school,” she said. “I have good memories of him taking us to get ice cream and to the lake to swim.”

Madelyn was one of Paul’s five daughters, who also include Pauline Ashby, Ginger Burleson, Trish Hughes and Tammy Moore. Paul and his wife, Mary, had been married 39 years.

Eva described her brother as a “people person.”

“He enjoyed talking to people. Once he met you, he knew all about you before he left. He knew a lot of people, many he had worked with at the plants. He knew their families and their children,” Eva said.

Paul had worked at North American Rayon Corporation for 48 years before retiring. “He knew all about the plants, their history, how those machines ran. That was just his nature, to learn how things were made, how machines worked, and who people were, and what they did for a living,” Eva said.

Although Paul grew up in the Sandy Bottom community, he was originally from Spruce Pine, N.C. “His mother was widowed at the age of 26 with five children. She moved to Elizabethton to find work. Paul was my half brother, but whatever he did with his kids, he did with me. We went picnicking at Roan Mountain, swimming at Watauga Lake, etc.,” Eva said. “He was a good big brother.”

Paul also enjoyed antiquing and researching family histories. “He’d pick up junk and try to make something out of it. He enjoyed talking about the good old days,” Eva said. “He also liked to collect old coins.”

She shared that her brother also enjoyed “piddling” around the house and growing things. His favorite thing to grow was tomatoes.

In his later years he enjoyed hanging out at the Covered Bridge Park with his buddies. “They met every day over there and tried to solve the world’s problems,” Eva said.

Paul Burleson was 92 years old when he died, and with him died a wealth of knowledge. He will be remembered by many for his friendship, his love for people, and his caring attitude. He was one of those people who didn’t need a reason to help people. To some, he was a hero, but didn’t know it.