Joan Burney began her 40-year career as a columnist at the Cedar County News in her mid-30s.

She soon became an author and a motivational speaker with a wide audience. Her columns appeared in more than a dozen newspapers and magazines, including the Omaha World-Herald, the Catholic Voice, the Norfolk Daily News and Nebraska Cattleman.

Burney, originally of Hartington, died Saturday in Lincoln. She was 90.

Born in Walthill, the sixth of seven children, Burney moved to Hartington in 1934 when her father, Emmett Rossiter, founded the Bank of Hartington.

She married Howard “Kip” Burney, the son of former Gov. Dwight Burney, in 1947, and they settled on a cattle farm near Hartington and raised six children.

Burney’s numerous community activities included directing the choir at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, directing plays and later counseling students at the high school.

She remained a Hartington resident until her 80s, when she moved to Lincoln to be near daughter Juli.

“My thing was that I was going to be the perfect wife, mother and homemaker, and none of those things worked out,” Burney said, smiling, during a 2008 Omaha World-Herald interview. “I had to find something else.”

Her writing debut came in 1968, when Burney was asked to assist friend Verne Borer, then-editor of the Cedar County News in Hartington. He wanted a week off from his column. Burney came through.

Her columns were known for their humor, but she also tackled the serious topic of how the 1980s farm crisis hurt people.

At 38, she returned to college and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She became a motivational speaker, traveling to almost every state and Puerto Rico.

“I’m a naturally born ham, so speaking is fun for me,” she said in the 2008 interview about her “semi-retirement” from column writing at age 80.

She also compiled a three-book series of her columns and co-authored two books on sharing faith with children.

Her many accolades include a 1993 National Federation of Press Women’s National Communicator of Achievement award and induction into the Marian Andersen Nebraska Women Journalists Hall of Fame.

A Joan Burney Scholarship Fund is managed by the Hartington Community Foundation.

Burney is survived by her children and their spouses: Robert of Cambria, California; Bill of Pismo Beach, California; John (LouAnn) of Lincoln; Juli of Lincoln; Tom (Pam) of Norfolk; and Chuck (Kathy) of Elkhorn, as well as four grandchildren, a great-grandson and nieces and nephews.

Services are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Holy Trinity in Hartington.

A celebration of life is planned in Lincoln later this year.

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