Lydia Mae Burrus (that she and the family pronounced Lottie Mae until going to college) was born to Walter and Carrie Saunders Burrus on September 17, 1924. She was one of ten born to this couple in Hyde county NC. Her father Walter Burrus was the first sharecropper black or white to purchase his farm in the county. She graduated from Hyde County Training School and often spoke about how they had to get used textbooks from the white schools. In middle school she played basketball with the varsity high school basketball team at the height of 5’0. Lydia has always been energetic and full of life. Growing up her father was a farmer, blacksmith, and a carpenter. She was known to be more willing to sharpen the plow by hand on the black smith stove and work the farm rather than do housework. She was known to cry and to fake headaches to avoid doing housework. This earned her the nickname “Boy” from her daddy and her brothers. She was valedictorian of her high school class and would readily produce her report cards to prove it. After graduating from high school in 1945 she came to Norfolk with her best friend Matthew Credle to attend Little State aka Norfolk State University. Later Matthew Credle was instrumental in introducing her to the love of her life Johnnie Harrison Felton. Due to having to work full time while trying to attend school she was forced to drop out of college.
She went onto work as a short order cook then to a cook at then the famous Plaza Hotel on Church Street in Norfolk VA. She pursued a career in barbering and later became master barber then a barber instructor. During her career as a barber instructor, she taught several notable barbers in the Tidewater area who trained others and worked in their community for the next 20 to 30 plus years. She gave her life to the Lord and joined Morning Star United Holy Church in the early 1950’s. When she joined Morning Star, it was in the Deep Creek section of Chesapeake where you had to catch a bus and a ferry to get to church. She worked hard in leading people to the Lord and growing the local church.
In 1958 she married Johnnie H. Felton and to this union they had a miracle son. The doctors told her she was too old to have children that her body would naturally miscarry a baby. Like Hannah she told the Lord that if he gave her a son, she would give him back to Him. After working as a home maker for seven years Lydia became a cashier at Giant open air market in Norfolk. When Giant market merged with Farm Fresh in the Ghent area of Norfolk. She continued to work as a cashier for twenty-five plus years. Lydia continued to work faithfully in Morning Star United Holy Church serving in positions including Pastor’s wife, Church trustee, Church clerk, Missionary, and licensed Christian Worker with the VA district convocation. Also, she worked with both the Minister Wives and Widows’ Council and VA district state Mothers Board. Mother Felton as she came to be known served on her local church’s mother’s board and she was instrumental in the spiritual training and development of at least two generations of Christians in this area. Her ministry even extended to rural Mexico where she ministered on the foreign field at 70 years old. Thus she at least partially fulfilled her hearts desire to be a missionary nurse but because of the lack of financial resources she was never able to finish her educational requirements. However she did support her husband through his training for his second career in becoming an LPN serving at NGH for ten years. She was a faithful supporting wife, a devoted mother, and a spiritual mentor to many.
She leaves behind her loving and caring son Johnnie and a faithful daughter in law Tammy. A host of nieces and nephews and God children. Two very special nieces Rebecca Jones who lived on the premises of her home and Clemintine Brown who checked in on her several times daily. And two special caregivers Will Bethly who became like a second son to her and Veronica Hill who she treated like family. Mother Felton will truly be missed with all of her sayings just to mention a few. “Follow me as I follow Christ”, “Pray I live right”, “If you see more than your mammie got throw a black hat at it”, “Why pay for the cow when you get the milk for free”?, “Go in and make the sign of the cross” and last but not the least “The more I teach you the dumber you get” Even though Mother Felton had many sayings she always had a praise on her lips even during her pain she would always say “Lord I thank you” and Hallelujah!
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