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Matriarch Evelyn Burrell succumbs at 104 years of age

Mrs. Evelyn K. Burrell, mother of Burrell Communications Group founder and former CEO Thomas J. Burrell, transitioned here this past weekend, Saturday, October 5 of natural causes. She was 104.

Mrs. Burrell, the middle child of 10 children, was born in Clayton, Alabama. She was a fiercely independent woman who reared her children to be self-sufficient, and independent thinkers, leaders and doers. Tom, who grew up in Chicago, is her only son and lone survivor.

“My mother worked really, really hard,” says Tom, recalling Mrs. Burrell’s strength, fortitude and spirit. “Growing up, we had 11 people living in a house with one bathroom, and I can remember seeing her hunkered over the bathtub with a washboard. She taught herself to sew, she learned carpentry, she went to beauty school and learned how to do hair,” he fondly relates. “She drove a car until she was 99 years of age and lived by herself up until about a year and a half ago. I believe that she made her own decision to leave, and she certainly wasn’t afraid of it.”

Mr. Burrell, who founded and shepherded Chicago-based Burrell Communications Group into one of the most highly regarded multicultural advertising agencies in the U.S., is also the author of the acclaimed book Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority (© 2010, Hay House/Smiley Books).

The agency that bears his name to this day boasts a roster of premiere, blue-chip clients that lead in their respective categories, including such brands as Procter and Gamble, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Toyota, the National Park Foundation, Walmart and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

A Celebration of Life for Mrs. Burrell was held Thursday, October 10 at Cage Memorial Chapel. Donations may be made to the American Heart Association in honor of her life.

“My mother taught me to be a good person; taught me how to live, and ultimately she taught me how to die,” Burrell’s award-winning chairman emeritus reflects further of his family’s matriarch. “She was always laughing through the years. She taught me how to leave with grace. It was a privilege to watch the whole process. When I think about the quantity and the quality of her life, I’d say she had good quality in abundance.”

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