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Roberta Burwell: Larger Than Life

Monday, December 5th, 2016 | Uncategorized | No Comments

By Tom Irmen

Although I had only known Roberta for just over a year, I, like so many others, was familiar with her life’s passion, the Good Neighbors Shoppe. A labor of love shared by both Roberta and her late husband, Gene, the Good Neighbors Shoppe is nothing short of amazing, much like Roberta.

Sadly, Roberta Burwell passed away on November 18th. Yet, like so many of you, it’s difficult to put into words or to express our innermost feelings about her passing. We’ve all experienced grief at the loss of a loved one or close friend, but these sentiments seem inadequate as they relate to Roberta.

Roberta’s vision for the future resulted in a legacy that transcends her 84 years. She was unencumbered by life’s obstacles. Roberta never waited for others to tell her that it was acceptable for women to breach the “glass ceiling,” choosing instead to co-found The First National Bank of Southwest Florida in 1989, today the First National Bank of Florida.

Roberta also shared Ronald Reagan’s philosophy, which was “there is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” This philosophy lies at the very foundation of the Good Neighbors Shoppe, which has helped so many thousands of our neighbors in need by combining a vision of compassion, the resources of each of you, and the dedication of hundreds of volunteers.

I visited the Good Neighbors Shoppe two days after Roberta’s memorial. While saddened, the work of this iconic institution’s donors and volunteers continued as if they anticipated that Roberta, with her perennial smile, might walk through the front entrance at any moment. Like Reagan, she entrusted people with her vision for the future that was much larger than any one person. And she never cared who received the credit.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have met with Roberta on so many occasions. So impressed was I with Roberta that I brought my wife, Judy, to the Good Neighbors Shoppe to meet her. She was as impressed as I was with Roberta’s tenacious spirit and strong sense of purpose.

For those of you who never had the privilege of meeting Roberta, I invite you to visit the Good Neighbors Shoppe in Lenoir City to experience her legacy that lives on in this amazing team of volunteers and to see firsthand how your generous donations have assisted, and given dignity to, the countless thousands who have benefited in so many ways from this amazing charity. It will put a smile on your faces and, after all, isn’t that what Roberta would wish for all of us?

Good Neighbors Shoppe
420 Leeper Parkway in Lenoir City
(865) 988-9925

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