Local family shares legacy of motherhood

The five generations of the Burch family gather at the Laura Ridge nursing home. From left are Melva Jo Henry, Nellie Virginia Burch, Ridley JoMarie Timberlake, Dee Rae Timberlake and Coni Jo Lyman. (Staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

A dash of self-worth and a healthy portion of respect, blended with strong faith, are the Burch women’s recipe for motherhood.

The Burch family boasts five generations of females whose ages span almost 100 years. They share the same family values, a love of collecting and dark, uniquely shaped eyes.

In honor of Mother’s Day, three of the women took a stroll down memory lane.
Nellie Virginia Burch, 96, the family matriarch, is in poor health and resides in a local nursing home. The younger Burch women visit her often.

Burch raised six children in the early 1900s. They lived a simple pioneer life, with Burch making her family’s garments by hand and making tasty meals out of almost nothing, according to her daughter, Melva Jo Henry, 77, who described her mother as understanding but sometimes short on patience.

“She was busy and didn’t always have time to show affection or emotion, but if we had a problem she would make time to listen,” she said.

Making the best of every situation is a valuable life lesson mother passed to daughter, Henry said.

Coni Jo Lyman, 50, was the youngest of the Henry family and a self-professed daddy’s girl. Her mother raised her and her two older brothers in an old farmhouse.

“We didn’t have a lot but she made our home beautiful,” said Lyman, describing her mother as a talented seamstress who valued family above all else. “She was the type of mother who needed to have all her chicks gathered,” she said.

Even today Lyman turns to her mother for advice and considers her to be her best friend.

The legacy of love and friendship was passed on by Lyman to her daughter, Dee Rae Timberlake, 29.

At 21, Lyman found herself a single parent.

“I found myself with a GED and a young daughter,” said Lyman, who said she handled the situation by utilizing a skill she had acquired growing up on a farm. She spent a summer driving a tractor, which she said enabled her to earn money and clear her head. She said she wanted her daughter to grow up to be a strong, educated woman.

Timberlake described Lyman as considerate and understanding, someone who values structure and education, adding her mother always supported her in her school endeavors.

“She never missed a school activity or sports event,” she said. “It is because of her that I have a master’s degree.”

The youngest mother of the Burch family said she hopes to instill the same set of values into her daughter, Ridley, and follows the successful parenting style of her grandmother and mother by holding the 1-year-old to a loving but strict schedule. “We read together, play together and eat together,” she said. “It’s all very structured.”

The Burch women said they talk on the phone daily and visit weekly. They attend church services regularly and enjoy bargain hunting at discount stores.

Each woman also enjoys collecting, a trait passed down by the pioneering Burch, who possesses a large cup and saucer collection. Henry’s passion is pink Depression glass; Lyman has amassed numerous knickknacks depicting Noah and his ark; and Timberlake has accumulated several antique cameras.

The Burch women celebrated their rich family history Saturday morning by taking baby Ridley for a visit with her great-great-grandmother.

“We enjoy each other,” Lyman said. “We are a close-knit family.”

Timberlake fondly agreed with her mother. “We are all cut from the same cloth,” she said.