Reverend Jessie Burlen Aldridge of the Tuskeegee Community of Graham County passed away peacefully on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at Harris Regional Hospital.
The son of Shuford and Hollie Crisp Aldridge, he was born May 11, 1930. He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife of 58 years Merle Carver Aldridge; and his older brother, Richard Aldridge.
Survivors include his 3 children – Cheryl Ann Aldridge Beck (Steve), Jeff Aldridge (Barbara), and James Aldridge (Lori); grandchildren, Julia Badalucca (Mike), Amanda Orr (Blake), Jesse Aldridge (Haley), Andrew Beck, Luke Aldridge, and Hollie Aldridge; 5 great grandchildren, and 1 great great granddaughter; his sister, Nellie Phillips (Gerald) and several nieces and nephews.
After graduating from Stecoah High School as Salutatorian of his class, Burlen attended Mars Hill College for one year, later transferring to Carson-Newman College where he earned his B.A. in English with a minor in Psychology. He later received his master’s degree in School Administration from Western Carolina University.
Mr. Aldridge was called to preach when he was in his late teens. He pastored four churches during his 69 years of Ministry – Ela Baptist, New Hope Baptist, Jackson Line Baptist, and Bethel Baptist – serving for 3 and a half years as associational missionary for Cheoah Baptist Association. Reverend Aldridge served on the General Board of the NC Baptist State Convention for 12 years, as moderator of the Cheoah and Tennessee River Baptist Associations, was a member of the Board of Truett Camp, and became very active in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship when it was formed. Burlen was a bi-vocational pastor while teaching and serving as principal at Mountain View School at Tapoco and later as principal at Robbinsville High School. After leaving schoolwork in 1976, he owned and operated the Sears Catalog Store in Bryson City.
Farming was an important part of his life and he maintained a 70-acre farm first with his father and then later with his sons where he raised Black Angus cattle, grew tobacco, hay, and tomatoes. He was always proud of his garden. Up until 2 years ago, you could still find Burlen on his tractor mowing hay. He loved working at his sawmill and he was also an avid deer hunter. Burlen was a good steward of his land.
Burlen was a Master Mason for 24 years, a Shriner, and a member of the Eastern Star; he was also past master of the Robbinsville Masonic Lodge #672. He was active in the Cooperative Extension Advisory Council for Graham County. His family was named the TVA Farm Family of the year in 1978.
In recounting his life, Reverend Aldridge said he “was so thankful God gave me the opportunity to serve him. I hope and pray that I’ve been able to touch lives for God. I’ve had a wonderful life.”
A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 7:00 pm Thursday, March 11, 2021 at Tuskeegee Baptist Church. The family will receive friends from 5:00 till 7:00 pm at the Church prior to the service.
Graveside Services will be held at 11:00 am Friday, March 12, 2021 at the Gunter Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Jesse Aldridge, Andrew Beck, Luke Aldridge, Michael Phillips, Lindy Ammons, Eric Phillips, Ron Gentry and Bill Acord. Honorary Pallbearers are Danny Acord, David Acord, Dane Acord, Austin Walls, Raymond Norton, and Domingo Ramirez. Masonic Rites will be conducted by Robbinsville Masonic Lodge #672.
Due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19 face coverings and social distancing are required for those attending the Celebration Life Service at the Church and at the graveside service.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Shriners Hospital for Children, Office of Development, 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, FL 33607. Or to make a donation online please visit: www.lovetotherescue.org.
Townson-Smith Funeral Home is honored to be serving the Aldridge family. An online register is available at www.townson-smithfuneralhome.com.
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