Martha Lee Burden Bowden, beloved wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend passed away Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, at the age of 98.
She was born and raised in Sevierville, TN, and was the last surviving child of the late Stewart Henry Burden, Sr., and Comfort Lee Tate Burden. Martha was one of 26 grandchildren of John and Mollie Dockery Burden, Sevierville, Tennessee. She also was a great-grandchild of Isaac and Charlotte (Lottie) Dockery, Sevierville, Tennessee.
Her elementary school education was received at Pleasant View Elementary School in Sevier County. She graduated from Austin High School, Class of 1942. She received a B.S. degree from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro and attained a B.S. degree in Nursing from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Martha taught school for one year in Washington, North Carolina, before beginning her nursing career at Knoxville General Hospital and worked there until it closed in 1956. When the University of Tennessee Hospital opened in1956, Martha was employed at U.T. Memorial Hospital.
She was the first African American head nurse on staff and worked there for several years before joining the Knox County Health Department as a Public Health Nurse where she retired after 25 years of service. Martha was a friendly and outgoing person who lived a joyful life with her family and grandchildren. She especially enjoyed talking about family heritage and authored three books documenting the family history, stories and achievements. She became the family genealogist. In 1977 Martha helped start the John Burden Family Reunion. She co-chaired the reunion for over 25 consecutive years, setting the tone for an ongoing tradition.
Through her service life, Martha was a charter member of the Upsilon Chi Chapter of Chi Eta Phi Nursing Sorority, Inc., a member of the Optimist Club of East Knoxville, and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
While caring for her sister, she chartered the Family Council of the Hillcrest South Nursing Home, in an effort to improve quality of care for seniors and caregivers. During Martha’s spare time, she enjoyed reading, quilting, and playing bridge. She was a charter member of the Mes Amies, Las Vacenia and Nu Vacenia Bridge Clubs. Martha was also a long and faithful member of Immaculate Conception Church and was a founding member of the church’s quilting guild.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Stewart H. Burden and Comfort Lee Tate Burden; three sisters, Celestine Sims, Juanita Lundy, and Lois Arm- strong; two brothers, Stewart H. Burden, Jr., Eugene Burden; son-in-law, Danny (Pete) Simon; and her husband of over 60 years, Frank William Bowden, Jr.
She is survived by son, Frank (Carla) Bowden, III, MD; daughter, Jennifer Lee Zialcita-Simon; grandchildren, Valdemar (Trey) Zialcita, III, Zachary Zialcita, Morgan Lee Zialcita and Chanel Bowden; nephews, James Richard (Mary) Chandler, Charles (Gwendolyn) Chandler, Phillip (Libby) Burden; nieces, Ruby Lindsey, Henri Spriggs, Patricia Wilkerson; and numerous greatnieces and nephews.
The family expresses their heartfelt appreciation to Trinity Hills Assistive Living/Lighthouse Memory Care staff /Amedysis Hospice for their love and support of Martha and her family. A loving thank you to the faithfulness of her church family especially Mary Katherine Willard and Eddie Kilby. The family are also so grateful for her loving and amazing caregivers at home, Vickie, Agretta, Audrey and Loretta who made Martha’s last years fun-loving, safe and full of companionship.
The family will welcome family and friends on Friday Sept. 2 from 5-5:45 p.m. followed by a 5:45-7:30 p.m. service at Unity Mortuary, 1425 McCalla Avenue Knoxville, TN. Funeral Mass will take place Saturday, Sept. 3 at 11 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church, 414 W Vine Ave, Knoxville, TN. The final resting place will be held at New Salem Cemetery, Middle Creek Road, Sevierville, TN.
Unity Mortuary is honored to serve this family. www.unitymortuary1979.com.