Alafair (as she was known to all) began her life on December 23, 1927 just in time to celebrate Christmas with her parents A.B. and Lucy Maye Burton on their small farm in Axtell, Texas. She ended her journey on November 7, 2019 in Mesquite, Texas. There is no doubt that if Alafair was asked to describe her life in one word, she would have said, “an adventure.”
Alafair’s stories of her younger years included deciding to try chewing tobacco and swallowing whole when she heard her father looking for her, only to be caught moments later learning the reason that one did not swallow chewing tobacco whole. She delighted in telling of her paternal grandfather, AB Burton, secretly teaching her to drive at the age of nine. Followed by leaving her parents’ home with her Grandfather driving only to switch drivers when out of view driving into Waco, going in and doing banking business for her grandfather; followed by driving home and switching drivers again before returning to the driveway. Once again, her mother and father were oblivious to this until a bank teller mentioned it to her father one day when she described Alafair as a “responsible” little girl.
Alafair was born shortly before the Great Depression. Her responsibilities began early when her younger sister, Cosette was born with multiple health issues and Alafair became a protector. She was the oldest of John and Etter Wilson’s grandchildren and took on the responsibility of role model for her younger cousins. She was idolized as a big sister to all of them and set a high standard for herself that she manifested to all of the family.
As role model, she inspired younger family members by demonstrating the importance of education and having a profession by graduating from Baylor University in 1948 with a degree in secondary education and mathematics. Her pioneer spirit began to shine at this point, when she traveled to Edinburgh, Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and began using her teaching degree because the district “offered me the best salary.” Shortly after arriving in the Valley, she met a very eligible young bachelor by the name of Walker Hammett from Santa Rosa. Despite her initial intent to only stay in the Valley for one year and her attempt to move away and teach somewhere else, Walker lured her back to the Valley and married her on June 8th, 1951. The couple settled in Santa Rosa where Walker was Postmaster. Alafair continued her teaching career for 34 years in Harlingen, La Feria and Santa Rosa with only one brief three-year break when Walker and Alafair’s daughter, Jeanie, was born.
In the late 1970’s Alafair became involved in the establishment of a fledgling teacher’s organization Association of Texas Educators (A.T.E.) and became their president in 1979. In the Spring of 1980, Alafair became the first President when it merged with Texas Professional Educators and became the Association of Texas Professional Educators. She delighted in her trips to Austin to lobby for what she felt in her heart was good for Texas Educators and the schoolchildren of Texas. As the years went by and her ability to be in Austin for legislative sessions declined, her thirst for knowledge of legislative activities remained and she could tell you exactly what was going on with education-related legislative bills when the Texas Legislative session closed earlier this year. In addition to her work with ATPE, she was a Sunday School Teacher at Santa Rosa First Baptist Church. She was also a long time member of First Baptist Church of Harlingen; and at the time of her death, she was a member of the Oak Lawn Baptist church in Bellmead, Texas. She was also a long time member of the international honor society for female educators, Delta Kappa Gamma as well as the Walter Baldwin Chapter of Eastern Star.
In 2007, Alafair and Walker left the Valley to return to the farm that she had grown up on in the Axtell area. In 2013, she returned to the Valley to bring her beloved Walker back to the home he loved following his death. She returned to Axtell until 2018 when an unexpected illness forced her to reluctantly move to Mesquite to live with her daughter Jeanie and son-in-law Mike where she remained until 2 weeks before her death.
She was preceded in death by her parents, A.B. and Lucy Maye Burton; her sister, Cosette Burton; and her husband, Walker. She leaves behind her daughter, Dr. Jeanie Hammett-Zelanko and son-in-law, Mike; her grandchildren Elise (Derek) and David Zelanko; and a very special great grandson, Kellen Walker Zelanko-Davis.
Visitation will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Fri., November 15, 2019 at Buck Ashcraft Funeral Home. A graveside service will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Sat., November 16, 2019 at Restlawn Memorial Park in La Feria, Texas.
Alafair has served as a model daughter, wife, mother, teacher, mentor, and Christian witness to many during her lifetime. Without a doubt, she arrived to meet her Lord and Savior and heard those powerful words, “well done my good and faithful servant.”
Alafair believed that teachers were profession educators who educated children and served the communities where they taught. She would often say that “education is the only thing that no one can take from you.” She believed that completing the education required to become a teacher was only the first step to becoming a quality educator. Alafair was certain teachers must continue to learn to stay ahead of their students. Well- trained leadership is necessary to produce well-trained educators. As a result, Alafair’s family request that donations in her memory be made to Leadership ATPE c/o Dr. Shannon Holmes, ATPE Ste. 300, 305 East Huntland, Austin, Texas 78752-3792.
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