With a strong testimony in her Methodist faith, Sonya hesitated when her family decided to join a new church. She struggled greatly with the new church’s belief of three separate Beings in the Godhead. So on a starry night walk, on her way home from babysitting, Sonys prayed to know the truth. As she gazed into the stars, she saw what appeared to be 3 separate streaks of light. She felt this was an answer to her simple prayer, and in September of 1948, Sonya and her family were baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sonya told stories about the coldness of that day, as there was no baptismal font, just a chilly and cold lake. She was certain that they must have broken ice before the event.
Sonya’s family was the first in Mitchell to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was not easy. Sonya and her family were teased and harassed. There was no meeting house in town, so meetings were held on the second floor of a courthouse. As chewing tobacco was quite popular, Sonya and her family spent a good deal of their sabbath day cleaning up the spitting-canisters before their meetings. The closest meeting house was located in Sioux Falls S.D., where they would travel twice a year, a good 73 miles away, for Conference.
Sonya’s family moved from Mitchell during Sonya’s high school years to Gregory S.D., where she would finish her High School career graduating from Gregory High in 1956. After High School, Sonya traveled to Elk Grove, California to live with her brother Leroy and his young family to work and save money to go to college at BYU in Provo Utah. She was able to find employment at Fox Bakery, where she learned baking skills that would last a lifetime. (Us kids looked forward to Christmas time as this is when she would kick baking into high gear!).
When Sonya finally made her way to BYU, she found that she had excellent office management skills, and lightning-fast fingers with the ability to type 125 words per minute; and that’s on one of those sticky keys, ribbon holding typewriters. These skills and abilities paved the way for her to earn a lead secretary position at Dun & Bradstreet aka IRS.
On one fine day, Sonya came home to her dormitory, to find a young return missionary (Gale Duane Burnett); sitting on the only chair in the room; waiting to take her roommate, that had written to him his entire mission, out on a date. That young man wrote in his journal that night, I met the woman I am going to marry, and it’s not who I thought. That young man, my dad, fell instantly in love with my mom. Now it took him a while for him to convince her of that, but he was pretty irresistible.
So, on a beautiful summer day, on the 7th of June, 1962, Sonya Arlene Peters became Sonya Arlene Burnett. “Interesting side note, both Gale and Sonya had close ties with one of the Apostles of the Church, Elder Spencer W. Kimball. Elder Kimball had come to Sonya’s home and sat down with her and her family in South Dakota. And Gales’ Father had done a good portion of the construction of Elder Kimball’s home in Thatcher Arizona. Because of this close connection with Elder Kimball, Gale and Sonya asked Elder Kimball to do the honors of sealing them for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple. “ As Spencer W. Kimball later became the Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both Gale and Sonya felt that their marriage was surely a match made in Heaven, and would be strong enough to stand the test of time.
Two years after Gale and Sonya were married, Sonya hung up her secretary hat, as being a mom was not only her greatest desire, but there was no job more important than the role of being a mom. Gale and Sonya brought three wonderful children in the world; Gwynn Rae (Meaker); Kevin Duane; and Kendall Scott Burnett. However, there were three other pregnancies that ended in miscarriages. Sonya always felt that her unborn children were, “on the other side of the veil anxiously awaiting her return”.
Sonya would serve in many church callings throughout her life, but her favorite was the numerous times she had the opportunity to serve as a Relief Society Secretary. She loved getting to know and serve each Sister. Sonya enjoyed; fine music, singing, painting, walking, looking at the night sky especially the stars, puzzles, and spending time with her family, helping others, and her Visiting Teaching.
In the 56 years that Gale and Sonya were married, not a cross or mean word was ever spoken to one another, EVER. In all my years, I have never seen a couple with more love and devotion than that of my parents. If you know my parents, then you know that these two people were inseparable. After my father’s passing in December of 2018, my mother, whose mind became broken from dementia, could not understand why her husband was always away. With my eternal perspective, I with confidence would tell my mom, that dad was away building their new home. My mom was quick to anticipate that her dream home, aka, the one being built, was 3 stories tall, with a basement that had a swimming pool in it. It was next to the church, the Temple, and the hospital. There would be enough room for all us kids to come and visit them or live in if we needed to. On Tuesday, the 25th of August, mom officially moved into her new home. She has officially graduated from this life and moved into the home that my dad has been building for them. Whenever I saw my parents looking at one another, you could always see the soft look of pure and genuine love. What a wonderful moment they must have had as my father reached out and embraced her.
We would personally like to thank the McDougals and Caldwell funeral Chapel staff for the love, support, and kindness that they have given to our family. We would also like to personally thank Haven of Safford, especially the nursing staff, for their constant and unwavering care that they personally gave to our mom.
Sonya joins her Husband of 56 years, Gale Burnett; her Brothers; her Parents, Grandparents, and countless others.
Sonya is survived by her three children and their spouses; her grandchildren and great-grandchild.
Visitations will be held on Friday the 4th of September from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the McDougal Caldwell funeral home in Safford Arizona.
To send flowers to Sonya's family, please visit our floral store.