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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Susan Burgess, Charlotte City Council Member Dies From Cancer (R.I.P.)

Susan Burgess Dies From Cancer June 16, 2010

Longtime Charlotte City Council member Susan Burgess died Wednesday morning after battling colorectal cancer for more than three years.

Mayor Anthony Foxx has ordered flags at city buildings fly at half-staff in honor of Burgess.

The Burgess family called Foxx early Wednesday morning, letting him know about her death. She died at her home at about 6:25 a.m. Her husband, Pat, and her children were at her side.

"The Charlotte community mourns the loss of one of the strongest, most courageous public servants we have ever known in Susan Burgess," Foxx said in a statement. "She has left an indelible mark throughout our community in public education, arts and culture, housing, the environment and countless other ways. She battled cancer by refusing to be bound by it, maintaining her zest for living and her desire to keep serving others. I will miss my great friend and send heartfelt condolences to her family."

Gov. Bev Perdue released this statement on Burgess' death: "Susan Burgess was a remarkable woman. She loved her family and her friends, and she was passionate about making Charlotte the Queen City of America. She worked tirelessly for what was right and never let the word 'no' keep her from doing what she believed in. We will all miss her strength and her leadership, but what I will miss most of all is the woman who wasn’t afraid to fight -- and who was my friend for many years."

Burgess' funeral will be held Saturday at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Dilworth. The service is scheduled to begin at noon.

Burgess, 64, made her last public appearance June 7 at a City Council meeting in which her colleagues and friends gave her a rousing standing ovation.

"With a great deal of personal sadness, I must resign my seat on the Charlotte City Council," Burgess said during that meeting.

Her parting words were a goodbye and reminder of the full life that she lived.

"I'm happy. I'm happy for all of the blessings that I have received and I just don't think there could be a more blessed person on the face of the earth," Burgess said.

Married to her high school sweetheart for more than 40 years, Burgess had four children and six grandchildren.

Much of her life in Charlotte was spent in the public eye. She served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School Board, starting in 1990. From 1995 to 1997, she was chairwoman.

In 1999, Burgess announced her plans to run for City Council as an at-large candidate. She served one term and then in 2001, made a unsuccessful run for mayor.

She was back on City Council in 2003 and elected mayor pro tem.

Outside the government center, Burgess was a passionate member of the Democratic Party in Charlotte with ties to some of its highest profile members.

She was an outspoken part of the movement to make public places smoke-free, founder of the organization Smoke Free Charlotte.

Burgess announced she had colorectal cancer in February 2007, had surgery and began chemotherapy.

Her friends and colleagues at the government center say she never eased up.

"Just amazed all of us the whole time," said Mayor Anthony Foxx.

In May, Burgess announced her plans to stop her therapy and begin hospice care. Even with death so imminent, she attended whatever meetings she could. She was inducted into the Order of the Hornet -- the city's highest honor -- at the beginning of June.

"Those who don't always agree with her have to admire her," said Council member Andy Dulin.

Burgess was presented the Mayor's Award in Honor of Richard Vinroot at her final council meeting.

"Thank you, and God bless you," Foxx said.

UNC Charlotte has established the Susan M. Burgess Fellowship in Public Administration to honor Burgess. Contributions to the fellowship can be made through the UNC Charlotte Foundation website at

Click on the "make a gift" link or mail contributions to the UNC Charlotte Foundation, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, N.C. 28223.

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Sources: UNCC, WCNC, Google Maps

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