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Diana Ruth Johnson Burge

Diana Ruth Johnson Burge passed away peacefully on Christmas Eve, 2023, at her home at Brookdale. In the hours preceding her death, she was surrounded by family and loved ones who sang hymns and Christmas carols, offered prayers and shared with her so many words of love. The sweetest of sendoffs for the sweetest of humans. 

Diana was born July 17, 1937, in Asheboro and spent most of her life there. Her connection to the town goes back far, including vivid childhood memories of reading comic books at Little Castle and sitting at the soda fountain at Kearns Drug Store. She was a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church and a 1955 graduate of Asheboro High School. She became ever endeared to her community in 1957 by being crowned Miss Randolph County.

Diana attended her first two years of college at East Carolina University, where she would make some of the dearest friends of her entire life — affectionately known as the Big 5! As wonderful and full as her ECU experience was, Diana was destined to be a Tar Heel and transferred to UNC-CH to conclude her higher education. At Carolina, she was a member of Alpha Delta Pi sorority, the homecoming court and crowned Miss Yackety Yack. (The town of Chapel Hill also selected her as their queen during that time.) In 1959, she graduated with a degree in English.

Diana married F. O’Neil Jones and welcomed into the world two children, Holly and Matt. Living for several years in Wadesboro, N.C., Diana made wonderful friends and resumed teaching English. Diana quickly became an Anson High “favorite” (an accolade that described her throughout her career). She was so beloved by her first senior class, Anson High Class of 1967, that they kept in touch with visits and calls for her entire life. She also stood up for students when they needed a voice. When pregnant students were banned from attending Anson High School, she advocated for their inclusion. For this, Diana was “banished” to Wadesboro Middle School. This banishment was a gift to hundreds of middle school students, especially when she wheeled in the AV cart to watch the ACC tournament. 

As fate would have it, Diana returned to her beloved hometown with Holly and Matt in 1975. There she would reunite with Bob Burge, fall in love and marry her soulmate. Together in their 38 years of marriage they experienced the best of life — deep friendships. loyal pets, amazing travel and countless family milestones, culminating in the arrival of a granddaughter. 

Diana was a dedicated mother and grandmother. She worked hard to provide for her children and offered them opportunities, support and lots of wisdom. (Most of which was taken.) Even as she was a hometown girl, she raised her children to be their own people and seek out their own unique path.

Diana relished the role of grandmother. Granddaughter Gabby was a frequent visitor to Asheboro from an early age. These visits included Diana taking Gabby to get her hair done by Trenda, eating lunch downtown at the deli, visiting the NC Zoo in Asheboro and, of course, attending Sunday worship service! Diana, along with Bob, attended numerous dance recitals, band concerts, chorus performances and sporting activities as proud grandparents.

For 33 years, Diana was a North Carolina public school teacher, 24 in the same classroom in Asheboro High. She was well loved and respected by countless students and her colleagues. She taught thousands of students grammar, introduced them to Shakespeare and maybe, most importantly, showed them kindness. Many AHS graduates were better prepared for college because of the foundation she provided in her English class. She also inspired many to enter teaching as a profession. Each year she would write her classes a goodbye letter filled with encouragement, guidance and a loving farewell.

To honor her, a scholarship has been established at the Asheboro City Schools Foundation in her name — the Diana Burge scholarship. Annually, it will be awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated a curiosity and affection for literature and writing during their academic career and who also displays a heart for serving others. 

Diana’s dimpled smile was legendary and she was ridiculously photogenic. She was an avid UNC fan, who would give extra credit on pop quizzes if you knew the words to the Carolina fight song. She celebrated being at the 1993 NCAA Final Four when the Tar Heels won the national championship. She also loved dogs and was accompanied by two loving pups in the hours before her passing. 

In the second half of her life, she travelled the world with her love, Bob, returning with wonderful souvenirs and great stories. Other joys in her life were good food, reading, playing cards, singing in the church choir, all things Christmas, Broadway musicals, holding hands and talking on the phone to Mary Lou and her children. The list of joys would not be complete without including the times with her cousin Lane Ragsdale, who always brought her great delight through his amazing talent, irreverent quips and compassionate ear. Diana was also bad at directions, hated cleaning house, disliked exercising and sushi, and had strong opinions about certain rival ACC coaches.

Diana shared gratitude and kindness with ease and consequently touched many people throughout a day. She was ever faithful and loving to God, displaying her discipleship through acts of generous care to all. In the final years of her life, she was supported by many caring individuals, but Rhonda Hoover had a special place in her heart. Together every Wednesday, they shopped, went to the beauty shop, lunched, but primarily cared for each other. The friends she made at both Mountain Top and Brookdale held a special place in her heart as they generously shared laughter, love and time. The entire Brookdale staff showed tender care and heartfelt affection for Diana until her dying breath. Her final words to all who held her hand by her beside or stroked her head were “I love you.” She spread love lavishly and in the end it all came back to blanket her for eternity. 

Diana is survived by a devoted family, daughter Holly Jones and husband Bob Falls of Asheville; son Matt Jones of Wadesboro, NC; granddaughter Gabriela Jones of Raleigh, NC; sister-in-law Brenda de Suze of Potomac, MD; cousin Deebie Thompson of Asheboro; goddaughters Mary Helen Horne of Clayton, NC and Marian Guill of Wilmington, NC. 

She is preceded in death by her husband Robert Burge, mother Ruth Deaton Johnson, father Richard Clay Johnson and cousin Lane Ragsdale.

Services will be Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024, at 1 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, Asheboro, with Rev. Lynda Ferguson officiating. The family will receive friends in the church parlor after following the internment of ashes.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Asheboro City Schools Foundation (PO Box 1103, Asheboro, NC, 27204, and denote Burge scholarship).