Rheta Florence Earl Burnham was born February 13, 1934 In Elwood, Utah. She was the daughter of Jesse James Earl and Verna Florence Larsen Earl. Rheta had an older brother, LaMar, and a younger sister, Julia. Rheta’s childhood with her family was both simple and difficult, as were many at the time. Their livelihood consisted mainly of farming and labor as it became available. She attended school in Deweyville, and subsequently graduated from Bear River High School. She was married to Keith Penrose Burnham on June 4, 1952 in the Logan Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Soon after their marriage, Keith took a teaching job in Orinda, California and they moved to Lafayette, in the San Francisco Bay area.
Rheta’s family was the central focus of her life, especially in the early years of her marriage. Her first daughter, Merle Florence, was born in Utah on July 9, 1953, just before they left for California. Nancy Lynn was born in Walnut Creek, California on August 23, 1955, and James Penrose followed on August 25, 1957. Bruce Earl joined the family on April 2, 1962. They settled in Pleasant Hill, California where they remained until 1992 when Keith and Rheta moved to Denver, Colorado.
Rheta exhibited many talents over the years, particularly involving the arts. She enjoyed painting, drawing, mosaic work, knitting, embroidery, needlepoint and quilting. Many family trips involved camping in idyllic scenery where Rheta could paint and sketch.
Rheta also served continuously in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She especially enjoyed her many years working in both the Oakland, California, and Denver, Colorado temples.
She participated regularly in book clubs, and the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. She had an interest in family history and worked diligently to preserve it for future generations.
Rheta was preceded in death by her husband, Keith, just as the isolation of Covid began. She faced several years of loneliness with courage and a desire to carry on as best she could. We thank members of the staff at Holly Creek Christian Living Community for their kindness and care, as well as members of the Orchard Ward. Rheta passed away peacefully in her sleep on Monday, June 13, 2022, in Centennial, Colorado. She is survived by her sister, Julia Gleed (Norman) of Eagle, Idaho; her children Merle Pratt (Reo) of Apple Valley, Minnesota; Nancy Boyd (Steve) of Cherry Hills Village, Colorado; Jim Burnham (Sally) of Temecula, California; and Bruce Burnham (Pauline) of El Dorado Hills, California. She had 17 grandchildren, 51 great-grandchildren, and a great-great grandchild. She was very proud of her posterity.
The family will meet together for a graveside service at Fort Logan National Cemetery on June 21, 2022. Rheta will be buried there beside her husband of 70 years.