Gertrude Irene Carper Burrell

Honored by:Steven Burrell, Kelly (Burrell) Multach, Amy Burrell, Timothy Burrell and Harry Burrell
Brick location:C:18  map

Jumping center, secretive teacher, bridge worker, swine editor, and loving Grammie all describe Gertrude Burrell.  Read on and see how it all fits together.

Born March 1, 1915 in Olds, Iowa, she was the youngest of Arthur and Leona Carper's three daughters.  In addition to being prominent in all Olds High activities, she captained the girls' basketball team as the "jumping center" in the days when there was a jump ball after each basket.  (She was been a consultant on two books, providing insight and experiences from the early years of Iowa Girls' Basketball.)

Gertrude attended Culver-Stockton College for one year before transferring to Iowa State Teachers College (now the University of Northern Iowa).  While at the Cedar Falls school, she met and had a whirlwind courtship with Harry Burrell of Iowa City.  As their grandchildren often remind them, it was 59 days after they first met when they eloped across the Illinois border.

After graduating, she taught at Ainsworth for two years, with Harry driving between Cedar Falls and there on the weekends.  They kept the marriage a secret for those two years, since teachers in those days could not be married.  Only her sister and brother-in-law knew, as their home was often used as the weekend "safe house.”  In 1938, Gertrude and Harry moved to Cedar Falls where she continued her teaching career.  Three years later, their son Steven was born and they relocated to Ames where they have lived until death.

Gertrude worked in the home raising Steven.  Like many other American mothers, she was forced to be a single parent while Harry was in the Pacific during World War II.  In those years, she built enduring relationships with other wives in similar circumstances.  After the War, she began substitute teaching until one fateful day when an especially unruly group of sixth graders, including a future U. S. Representative, helped her make a career decision.  She moved on to become a part-time bookkeeper at a local automobile dealership.  Like so many other part-time positions, the workday became longer and longer.  Soon the job consumed the entire week except for Friday afternoons --- the bridge club was sacrosanct.  During these and later years, Gertrude was very active with the Chi Omega sorority at Iowa State, serving on the advisory board and the Alumni Association.  Her dedication and hard work with the girls helped make Chi Omega one of the premier sororities on campus.

In 1960, Gertrude found an opportunity to put her college English major to work.  She joined the proofreading staff at the Iowa State University Press.  Over the next seven years, she proofread hundreds of manuscripts.  She was then promoted to editor, and because of her extensive background and education, always seemed to be assigned the hardest and most technical books.  Her most tedious, "Diseases of Swine", an 800+ page tome, became the standard by which all other manuscripts were measured for difficulty.  She loved the work and thrived on the tough books, but as before, her work schedule was built around the Friday afternoon bridge club.

After her retirement in 1980, the number of bridge clubs grew to five and her social life expanded proportionally.  She took on the presidency of both Theta Chi women's social sorority and a local PEO chapter.  Owing to her superb organizational skills and drive, these clubs prospered during her leadership tenure.  She also served as Treasurer and became deeply involved in the First Methodist Church Circle.

In 1976, Gertrude's daughter-in-law and three grandchildren moved back to Ames.  Over the next 29 years, she found that despite the trauma of her son's divorce, she was having an opportunity she never anticipated; she has to have close, personal relationships with the three young people she always referred to as "our kids.”  Whether it was Kelly showing up to study (actually sleep) on the livingroom floor, Amy bringing a gaggle of friends by for a rest stop during VEISHEA festivities, or Tim stopping by to pick up the latest issue of "Sports Illustrated" or "The Sporting News", they all knew that there would be a loving welcome AND a refrigerator filled with cookies. Each of "our kids" had a favorite, so there would be at least three cookie tins in waiting at all times.  As her grandchildren went to college, moved from Ames for new jobs, married and had children, she still maintained that close relationship with them and their families.

In 2005, as a 30-year breast cancer survivor, at age 90, she finally succumbed to the third attack of that insidious disease.  Even in death, she remains in our memories as a warm, compassionate friend to her husband and family.  Full of love and kindness as a Wife, Mother, "Grammie", and Friend, she made life more beautiful for all those fortunate enough to know her.  Each of her grandchildren has special thoughts and memories of her to share.

KELLY (BURRELL) MULTACH: I have thousands of wonderful memories of Grammie.  One of my earliest remembrances was when I threw-up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on her living room drapes.  She always blamed herself because she was so concerned for me that she mistakenly stopped me on the way to the bathroom to ask what was wrong.  The stains never came out.  While in college at Iowa State, I needed a quiet place to study; my sorority was not it.  Grammie and Harry let me come over to study (and sometimes fall asleep) any time I wanted.  I would set up camp in front of a space heater on their living room floor.  Grammie checked on me, as you check on a first baby to make sure it is still breathing.  She was convinced I would roll into the heater and catch on fire.  Many of my memories center around just talking to her.  Most of my high school and college friends didn't know what it was like having living grandparents.  They just didn't understand the kind of relationship I had with Grammie.  No subject was off limits.


She didn't slow down much until late into her 80's, but I think it was because she loved to talk/complain about how busy and tired she was due to all her clubs and activities.  I told her she needed to learn to say “no” once in awhile, knowing full well that was not even in the realm of possibilities.  She was, without a doubt, the most determined, strong-willed, self-assured, motivated, understanding grandmother any grandchild could be blessed with.  As my kids grow older, her words still come back to me and I smile (and sometimes cry) thinking about how right she was.

AMY BURRELL-TICHY: It is hard to sum up in a few short sentences what Grammie meant  to me. It was simply her being there that made her the person she was to me. From the way she devised the name “Grammie” (because she was too young to be called “Grandma” by her first grandchild, and 40 years later was still too young for such a traditional name!), to the way she intuited when it was time to offer wisdom (cleverly disguised advice) and when it was time to just listen, she continually showed what a wonderful person she was. Her presence, her smile, her intellect, and her humor alone would make her a worthy honoree, but it was the unending, unconditional love she always showed that makes her so very special to me.

TIM BURRELL: Grammie taught me a lot over the years, but looking back now I think the most important thing she taught me was that family matters.  She always wanted the best for her grandchildren; and no matter how poor a showing I had in school or how bad of a personal decision I made in life, she was still on my side, letting me know that it was not the end of the world…even when I thought it was.  My fondest memories of her center around the dinner table, where we would all sit for hours talking about everything from current events to ISU sports to elementary, junior high and high school gossip.  She was a great storyteller who would share stories from all points in her life:  From me being a two-year-old handful at the Des Moines Airport, to my sisters constantly fighting in the living room, to my father and his many car problems, to her school age years growing up in Iowa.  I always think back fondly on that time in my life, remembering the warm and safe feeling provided around that table; and even though many of the stories told have faded from memory, the wonderful memories of my Grammie still remain.

Harry Burrell – ISU Sports Information Director (1941-1978)  Deceased
Steve Burrell – ISU 1963
Kelly (Burrell) Multach – ISU 1987
Amy Burrell-Tichy – ISU 1990
Tim Burrell -- ISU 1992

Submitted   2/1/1994
Revised   11/18/2013