Vaughn Nelson Burrell, beloved father, grandfather and great-grandfather, passed away peacefully on November 29, 2021, at home in Bessemer, Alabama. He was the son of the late Murphy Marion Burrell and Cora West Burrell. He was predeceased by his wife of 66 years, Geraldine Marter Burrell.
Born October 4, 1931, or 5th, depending on whether you believe his mother or the Board of Registrars, in Dade County, Georgia. He grew up on Sand Mountain near Trenton, Georgia, the oldest of two boys. He had a very modest upbringing that taught him early the importance and rewards of hard work. After graduating from Davis High School, Nelson, as he was known on the mountain, went to work at Davenport Hosiery Mill where the jobs were highly sought after because of pay and advancement opportunity, and where it was necessary to know someone who would recommend employment.
Vaughn worked at the hosiery mill until leaving to serve in the Army during the Korean Conflict. He was in the 25th Infantry Division where he achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class and was cited for meritorious service and outstanding leadership. He recently recounted events from his time in the Army and commented on how blessed he was during this time.
Upon his return from war, having saved his money during this time, Vaughn purchased his highly prized 1953 Mercury and began a career selling insurance. He abruptly discovered, however, that this didn’t quite suit him. One day as he was collecting premiums from employees at Bert Brown Motor Company, a Ford dealer in Chattanooga, the course of his life took a different turn —all because of wet tar. As he got into his car, he noticed that he had stepped in tar and deposited some of that tar on the interior of his new Mercury. He was so distraught his decision was instantaneous – no more collecting insurance premiums. He immediately got out of the car, marched back into Bert Brown and inquired whether Brown needed another salesman. Mr. Brown hired Vaughn, and thus his automobile career was launched. He enjoyed success at Bert Brown Motor Company where he was often salesman of the month.
Vaughn enjoyed another kind of success at Bert Brown. It wasn’t too long before a pretty, but aloof, office clerk caught Vaughn’s eye. Inspired by a challenge, Vaughn pursued Geraldine Marter until she said “yes” and they were married November 25, 1954. Their marriage resulted in three children, nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren with two more on the way.
In 1961, Vaughn was approached by Ford Motor Company regarding an opportunity with Long-Lewis Ford located in Bessemer, Alabama. After several meetings with Mr. Long, Vaughn was offered the position of general manager, which he accepted. He went on to lead Long-Lewis to become one of the most successful dealerships in the Country. In 1986, Vaughn bought Long-Lewis from the Long family, realizing one of his long-held goals of owning his own dealership.
Vaughn was also active in the community, serving as President of the Kiwanis Club, Greater Bessemer Area Chamber of Commerce, Bessemer Area YMCA, and Bessemer Salvation Army. He was also the recipient of numerous awards, including Ford Motor Company’s highest award for customer service multiple times; finalist for Time Magazine’s Dealer of the Year Award; and Ford Motor Company Top 100 award. He was also recipient of the Charles A. Long Civic Award.
Vaughn’s hobby was working. He enjoyed people and was quick to help others, especially with their transportation needs. He wasn’t just in the automobile industry, he was in the automobile ministry! He enjoyed traveling, and he and Gerrie had many opportunities to visit other countries. Vaughn and his brother also recently enjoyed a transcontinental train trip across the United States.
Vaughn is a member of Crossroads Community Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. He has been an active member of the Nazarene church for nearly 70 years, serving in various leadership and service roles.
Vaughn was a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He enjoyed spending time with family and being informed of the latest activities of all his family, but most especially the great-grandchildren. His family realize how blessed they have been by him in multiple ways and he will be greatly missed, but his legacy will be long-lasting among his family. Vaughn is survived by three children: Kathy Benson (Steve), Carolyn Stanford (Doug), Dwight Burrell (Celeste). Nine grandchildren: Eric Benson, Stacy Williams (Andrew), Alison Hyde (Steven), Holly Stanford, Drew Stanford (Allison), Bethany Napoleon (Dillon), Mallory Aurora (Chris), Kimberly Mazanowski (Micah), Joseph Burrell (Mary Beth). Ten great-grandchildren: Madelyn, Ethan and John Hyde, Autumn Stanford, Evelyn, Cora and Margot Napoleon, Ben Williams, Joe and Leo Aurora. He is also survived by his brother, Troyce Burrell.
The family wishes to acknowledge and thank Ms. Sandra Parrish for her compassionate and loving care of Mr. Vaughn. Words cannot fully express our appreciation for her service, her competence and professionalism, and most especially her friendship with Mr. Vaughn and Mrs. Gerrie over these last years.
A Visitation will be held on Friday, December 3, 2021 from 10:00am to 11:00am at First Church of the Nazarene of Birmingham with the Funeral Service beginning at 11:00am. Interment will immediately follow at Jefferson Memorial Gardens, South in Hoover, AL with Army military honors.