Burlington leader mourned

Published 10:42 am Tuesday, April 21, 2009

BURLINGTON — It was a long life well-lived. Owen Pleasant left this earth at the age of 95 on Monday and if you ask those who crossed his path, he left it a better place.

Pleasant was an entrepreneur, running Pleasant Janitorial Service, headquartered in Huntington, W. Va., a faithful and energetic member of First Baptist of Burlington and a part of history. As the last direct descendent of the Burlington 37, he was a flesh and blood symbol of one people’s fight for freedom.

It was in 1849 that Virginia plantation owner James Twynam freed 37 of his slaves and sent them to farm acreage he gave them in Burlington. Over the next century and a half that settlement grew and prospered into the Burlington community known today.

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One of Pleasant’s self-imposed duties was as chairman of the Burlington 37 Cemetery board maintaining the graves of those founders including his grandmother, Susan Gordon.

Harriette Ramsey of the Concerned Citizens of Burlington remembers when the cemetery was nothing but land consumed with overgrowth.

“You couldn’t even get in the cemetery,” Ramsey said. “When you buried someone, you had to cut through the brush. He was instrumental in making it a showplace. He was the catalyst for that.

“We have lost a great historian, the greatest historian of Burlington. He was a great friend, a father figure to everyone. He always had time for you. There will be such a void.”

Working along with Pleasant on the cemetery board was Charles Linthicum, whose first memories of Pleasant were those of a child growing up in the same neighborhood.

“He would do anything for anybody and wouldn’t expect anything in return,” Linthicum said. “He has always been that way for me and my family. Anybody who ran into him, he was a joy to be around.”

Linthicum also shared the same church with Pleasant and called him a man who was deeply knowledgeable about the Bible.

“He read the Bible a lot, had a lot of wisdom and a memory that you wouldn’t believe,” Linthicum said.

At First Baptist Pleasant at one time or another handled the duties of trustee, Sunday school teacher and Sunday school superintendent.

“He was a faithful member,” Dr. Douglas Carter, pastor of First Baptist, said. “He was here before I got here but I understood he was one of the leaders of the church. He was outgoing, volunteered and was really concerned about the community and keeping it going and reminding the young people of the history of it.”

In 2004 Pleasant was honored by his church for “outstanding community service” distinguishing himself as a “conscientious and hard-working Ohioan.”

Carter recalled his friend’s philosophy of life that was simple and to the point:

“If I can help somebody along the way.”