Emma Lee Whitlinger
Emma Lee Burke was born at the home of her parents, Walter and Sarah Johnson Burke in Roanoke Rapids, Halifax County, North Carolina on 12 September 1920. She would become the oldest of 3 surviving children. Tragedy struck the family when her father died at the age of 34 while she was just a youngster. The country was in a financial crisis as was her family. Her widowed mother became the breadwinner and started working at the local cotton mill. Emma Lee completed her 4 year high school diploma in just 2 years and maintained high marks. So she joined her mother at the same cotton mill to help with the family support. Later she moved to Norfolk seeking better employment opportunities; she became a telephone operator in that ''new'' enterprise. She met and married a Navy man, Richard M. O'Neil, and became Lee O'Neil. They had one child, Richard Michael ''Mickey'' O'Neil Jr., but the marriage ended in divorce.
In the early 1950's, Lee and Mickey were in Pensacola, Florida. Lee was working at the new Monstanto textile plant named Chemstrand. She was buying her own home and automobile. Socially she was active in the local Business and Professional Woman's Club. She received a written invitation to attend a Sunday tea dance scheduled for Valentine's Day, February 14, 1957 at the Officer's Club at Naval Air Station Pensacola, where she met Ensign Gregory L. Whitlinger who was a student Naval Aviator. Seven months later Lee and Greg married at the Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, Texas on her birthday, and Lee, Mickey and Greg set up housekeeping in base housing at the Naval Air Station. She then became Lee Whitlinger. Lee pinned the gold Naval Aviator wings on Greg's chest and the family was transferred to NAS Barbers Point in Hawaii. ALOHA!
Greg's naval career included being stationed in Florida, California, New Mexico and Virginia. When Greg was deployed to Western Pacific bases, Lee would drive her car (with favorite cat, ''GINGER'' by her side) cross country from the West Coast to the East Coast and return home to the West Coast. She did this at least 3 times. Lee enjoyed the military life and traveling and Lee and Greg did more traveling on their own all lifelong. She joined in the activities of the Officer's Wives Club, especially bowling.
Greg retired from the US Navy in Norfolk and started his second career. Shortly after this, Lee and Greg began taking ballroom dancing lessons. That meant that Lee spent considerable time finding the best band and ballroom for the weekend dances. Then she would advise all her dancing friends of the choices for the next weekend.
Lee tried to make friends and be a friend to all she met. Even today she has friends scattered all across the country. She lived life to the fullest and really lived a full life.
She had more than her fair share of medical issues and problems. She kept on going to the end, when her heart stopped on Sunday, September 13, 2015 at home.
She was preceded in death by her parents, brothers, Gilbert Burke and Freeman Burke. She is survived by her husband, Greg, son Mickey (Marsha), sister, Louise Burke Wrenn, 2 grandchildren, Michael O'Neil (Kelley) and Melissa O'Neil Wilcox (Matt), 4 great grandchildren, Devin, Tristan, Rylan, and Ainsley, 2 nieces Debbie and Cindy, nephew Jimmy and a handful of beloved cousins.
There will be 2 viewings. First will be Thursday, September 17, 2015 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM at Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home, 1457 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23455, Phone: 757-464-6221. The second viewing will be Friday, September 18, 2015 at 2:00 PM at Askew Funeral Home, 731 Roanoke Ave., Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870, Phone: 252-537-8888. Services will follow at 3:00 PM in the chapel at Askew Funeral Home, with Rev. Robert Redmond of Rosemary United Methodist Church officiating. Interment will follow at Cedarwood Cemetery, Roanoke Rapids, NC.
Hollomon-Brown Bayside Chapel is handling arrangements in Virginia, and Askew Funeral and Cremation Services in Roanoke Rapids, NC is handling arrangements in North Carolina. Online condolences may be made to the family at www.hollomon-brown.com or www.askewfs.com.