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West Plains, MO Location (417) 256-4141

Thayer, MO Location (417) 264-7242


  John Edward Burkhead was born the son of Harrold and Jessie Mae (Johnson) Burkhead, on January 31, 1948, in Doniphan, Missouri. He lived a life of service to his family, friends, church, and countless teachers and students throughout his career in education. His courageous fight with cancer reached its end and Jesus called him home on January 29, 2023, in West Plains, Missouri, at the age of 74 years.

  He was united in marriage on June 3, 1977, in Willow Springs, Missouri, to Anna Mae Looney, who was the wind beneath his wings and the CEO/Secretary/Treasurer of the operation, as described by John. He is survived by Anna Mae and their one daughter, Sarah Jo Burkhead Whittle, her husband, Dr. Neal Whittle, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, brothers-in-law James Looney and wife Jean Ann (West Plains) and Steven Looney (Thayer), as well as beloved Burkhead and Johnson cousins around the state and country, priceless hunting and fishing buddies from the places he lived, plus the Douglas family and children Gideon, Josiah, and Olivia. He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Harrold and Jessie Mae Burkhead, and brother-in-law Charles Looney.

  John appreciated the team of doctors and nurses who provided care for him during his cancer journey including Drs. Scott Roush and Charles Morgan in West Plains, Drs. Brian Davis and Eugene Kwon at the Mayo Clinic, 3 Rivers Hospice, and West Vue Nursing Center.

  As a boy Johnny loved to be in the great outdoors: training bird dogs, hunting for quail, deer, and turkey, and fishing with his parents around Oregon County. He also shined shoes at the Burkhead Barber Shop and loved recounting stories told to him as a young man. John was a proud Thayer Bobcat, class of 1966, whose blood ran green, and was a varsity member of the basketball and baseball teams. As an alumni, he continued to support Thayer athletics and especially enjoyed listening to them on KKountry 95. During his high school and college education, he also played the alto saxophone, which was later passed on to Sarah Jo.

  John was a first generation college graduate, earning his Bachelor of Science in Education, Master of Science in Education – Reading, and his Specialist in Education – Educational Administration from (Southwest) Missouri State University. His 40 year career in public school education was spent in the Ash Grove, Ava, Fairview (West Plains), St. Clair, and Howell Valley (West Plains) school districts as a teacher and/or school administrator.

  John placed his faith in Jesus Christ at a young age and was a member and Sunday School teacher at the Cornerstone Church of the Nazarene in West Plains. He was an avid crappie fisherman, enjoyed hunting for deer and turkey on his “lost 40” property, gardening and canning vegetables with Anna Mae, rooting for the St. Louis Cardinals, taking trips to Branson, and traveling to new places with family and retired teacher friends.

  Funeral service will be Saturday, February 4, 2023, at 2:00 p.m. at Carter Funeral Home in Thayer, Missouri. Visitation will be Saturday, February 4, from 12:00 p.m. until time of service at 2:00 p.m. 

  Interment will be private. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the Thayer School Foundation or to Gideons International, and may be left at Carter Funeral Home.




  1. Michele Hurst
    February 1, 2023 @ 7:50 am

    So sorry for your loss. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

    • Christi Vickers
      February 6, 2023 @ 3:07 pm

      I am so sorry for your family’s loss. My grandmother was Ellen Burkhead Ford. God bless and keep all of you !

  2. Jim and JoAnn Mellor
    February 1, 2023 @ 8:44 am

    Our thoughts and prayer go out to you, Anna Mae and Sara for your loss. May God put his loving arms around you and give you comfort and peace.

    • Lisa and Scott Dahn
      February 3, 2023 @ 8:41 am

      Our condolences to the Looney family. John rests in heaven with Chuck now.

  3. Mike & Dorothy Copeland
    February 1, 2023 @ 9:02 am

    Anna Mae and family: so sorry for your loss. Praying for peace and strength. Mike and John met at rehab and shared laughs with each other. God bless you. Mike and Dorothy

  4. Judy McGoldrick
    February 1, 2023 @ 9:49 am

    sending prayers for comfort and strength for Anna Mae and Sara. May our loving God put his arms around your family and shelter them with his love.

    • Pat Bolain
      February 1, 2023 @ 10:29 pm

      Praying for comfort & peace Anna Mae. I know Sarah & Neal are there to put their arms around you. May God hold you in his care in the days to come. Love to all of you.
      Pat & Ronnie

  5. Phyllis Miller
    February 1, 2023 @ 12:15 pm

    Sorry to hear of John’s passing. Wishing you peace of heart and mind.

  6. Bill and Beverly Linson
    February 1, 2023 @ 2:27 pm


  7. Bill and Beverly Linson
    February 1, 2023 @ 3:07 pm

    Sorry for your loss.

  8. Daniel Wynn
    February 1, 2023 @ 8:13 pm

    Anna Mae, I’m sorry to learn of Johnny’s death. You told me that he was dealing with cancer. He always gave the Alton Comets fits on the basketball court. He was so quick. I enjoyed seeing you two at alumni gatherings. Johnny was a great man! May God’s comforting spirit comfort you and your family.

  9. Randy Garnett
    February 1, 2023 @ 8:47 pm

    Sorry to hear about this Anna Mae!!!

  10. Adam & Sandra Bolain
    February 1, 2023 @ 9:21 pm

    We are sorry to hear about John. Anna Mae and Sarah, you are in our thoughts and prayers.

  11. Susan Brown
    February 1, 2023 @ 9:25 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear of his passing. Gosh how I loved talking with him after school way back when, and so valued his take on education. I used his bell curve analogy just last week with my high school students. ?
    May you find peace in knowing how many lives he truly touched by his love for education, the outdoors, family, and God.
    Rest easy Mr. Burkhead.

  12. Vickie L Lawrence
    February 1, 2023 @ 10:18 pm

    Praying for peace for the family. John was such a caring administrator when I worked for him at Fair View.

  13. TeLesa Dawn Lack
    February 1, 2023 @ 10:24 pm

    Have you and the family in my prayers!

  14. R. Winston & Gaye Ruth Reed
    February 1, 2023 @ 11:45 pm

    Anna Mae & Sara: Our thoughts and prayers are for you in this difficult time. John was my friend and enjoyed working with him and visiting with him these past years. We both enjoyed many of the same things and kept each other up to date on what we were both doing. “Checking in” was what John said to me when he called or texted. I will miss that. Take comfort Sara, that he thought the world of you and was very proud of you.

  15. Keith, Christine Turner & family
    February 2, 2023 @ 1:35 am

    My dear friend Anna Mae and sweet little Sarah my heart is saddened right along with yours. John was such a wonderful man and addressed all that walked by, taking the time to ask how they were doing.. He took his career seriously and was truly concerned for students. I wish I knew what to say and do because he would do for every person that he knew that had lost someone that was John. Anna Mae was the same way. I know you all will miss him but have the assurance you will all be together again in heaven one day. You know our body can handle quite a bit but he had way more than and you. Come to a point where you finally wear down and fought the fight to the.very end.. May God give you the strength you need in the coming days and beyond. Lean on God every day to help in anyway you need and know that your friends are praying for you and Sarah’s family. Don’t hesitate to call for any of us. Please hug Sarah and Sarah please hug your momma for me. Sending you hugs, love and prayers.

    February 2, 2023 @ 6:05 am

    Sorry for your loss.

  17. Mallory Snodgras
    February 2, 2023 @ 6:18 am

    Anna Mae, we are so very sorry for your loss. You will continue to be in our prayers! Mallory Snodgras & Darren Petrus

  18. Jan Wichern
    February 2, 2023 @ 8:30 am

    Anna Mae, I am so sorry for your loss. ?❤️

  19. Payree Short
    February 2, 2023 @ 10:38 am

    I am so very sorry for you loss. Mr. Birkhead was an administrator my first year teaching at Ava Schools. He always seemed to be in the cafeterial when I had duty. He was a great guy, always had a smile on his face and was always willing to support me when I needed help, That meant alot to me.

  20. Payree Short
    February 2, 2023 @ 10:39 am

    I am so very sorry for you loss. Mr. Birkhead was an administrator my first year teaching at Ava Schools. He always seemed to be in the cafeteria when I had duty. He was a great guy, always had a smile on his face and was always willing to support me when I needed help, That meant alot to me.

  21. April M Adams
    February 2, 2023 @ 11:22 am

    My heart and prayers go out to you. I remember him at Ava when I was in elementary school. He always smiled.

  22. Sarah Coats
    February 2, 2023 @ 12:52 pm

    Have been praying for you and will continue doing so! John was a beloved friend to so many and I am so thankful that my Dad (Casus) had the opportunity to work alongside him with the Rural School Principals and then again at Howell Valley. He was a treasured friend and confidant to Dad and Mom. We are so sorry that he is no longer here with us, but I know that he is having fun and making Dad laugh in Heaven!

  23. Dana Wilkerson Roberts
    February 2, 2023 @ 3:25 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of John’s passing away. Prayers to you and your family

  24. Brenda
    February 2, 2023 @ 3:28 pm

    Dear Anna Mae and Sarah, we are very saddened that your John has passed. He is at peace now and hope that knowing that will give you both comfort. Love to you. Brenda Looney Brewster and family, Sarah, Kathleen and James

  25. Ann Barton
    February 2, 2023 @ 3:42 pm

    Anna Mae and family,
    My heart is sad for you. You have such a strong faith and I know from experience that faith will carry you though these very difficult days ahead. Let family and friends take care of you. All of you in my prayers.
    Ann Hefner Barton

  26. Avelino ramón jimenez
    February 2, 2023 @ 3:50 pm

    It was nice to meet him and that he is with God

  27. Karen sholes
    February 2, 2023 @ 4:04 pm

    Anna Mae and Sara, I am so sorry for your loss. John was a good man and I respected him so much as an educator

  28. Larry Silvey
    February 2, 2023 @ 7:07 pm

    We are sorry to hear of John’s passing – peace and comfort to his family. I serve with Mr. Burkhead during his years as a teacher/administrator in the Ava R-1 School District. He was a dedicated student centered educator who impacted many individuals in a positive manner.

  29. Tom and Jan McGoldrick
    February 2, 2023 @ 8:41 pm

    Our sincere condolences Anna Mae. We had thought of you both often. You have our prayers in this difficult time.

  30. Tawna Watterson Cuzzort
    February 2, 2023 @ 9:49 pm

    Anna Mae and Sarah, I am sure you don’t remember me but I certainly remember you from my childhood at Highway Nazarene. Growing up, you were some of my favorite people. I am so sorry for your loss. Your family will be in my prayers.

  31. Kenneth and Carla Aborn
    February 2, 2023 @ 10:28 pm

    Anna Mae and Sarah so very sorry to hear about John! We have many great memories of you all from Highway church..
    You all are in our thoughts and prayers????????????

    • Randy &Judy Griffin
      February 4, 2023 @ 11:58 am

      The Burkhead family meant a lot to the Griffin family during and after the Fairview years. May blessings be one the family at this time.

  32. Joyce Dewey
    February 3, 2023 @ 8:25 am

    Anna Mae,
    We are so sorry for your loss.
    Even know I only met John for a brief moment, I could tell he must have been a wonderful husband, father and friend. Praying for you and your family ??????

  33. Michael T Donohue
    February 3, 2023 @ 9:25 am

    I am so sorry to hear about John, he was a very good and well respected man. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Clearwater, Florida and enjoyed our conversations on Life and of course St. Louis Cardinals Baseball. This has been a tough 5 or so months, first Chuck passing and now John.
    Best wishes to all of the Family during this very difficult time

  34. Ella Goans
    February 3, 2023 @ 9:44 am

    Anna Mae, our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May God comfort you and be with you at this time of loss. Ella and Frank

    • Barbara Letsinger
      February 3, 2023 @ 12:27 pm

      We’ve got wonderful memories of John and Anna Mae…can’t say one name without the other…knew him through the school board and Gideons BUT mostly church at Highway Nazarene…a wonderful experience serving the Lord together and singing in the choir…John was an encouragement always…never shirked a responsibility….went the second mile….he’s gone to the “head of the line ” and got to heaven before us…blessings on the family..❤️❤️❤️

  35. Leon, Cynthia, Reece, Emery and Tessa Keller
    February 3, 2023 @ 9:47 am

    Dear Anna Mae and Sarah,
    We are so sorry for your loss. John always had a smile for everyone! Prayers of comfort for your family.

  36. Pat Hatman
    February 3, 2023 @ 4:44 pm

    Anna Mae and Sarah Jo I am so sorry for your loss. My prayers will be with you in the days ahead.

  37. Julie A holloway
    February 3, 2023 @ 5:20 pm

    Praying for comfort and piece for the family. John was always a pleasure to visit with.

  38. Brad Bettis
    February 3, 2023 @ 9:57 pm

    So sorry for your loss, he was a great friend and brother in Christ. Love and prayers for all.

  39. Jerry, Orpha Beckwith & Family
    February 4, 2023 @ 8:16 am

    Sorry For Your Loss. John is no longer in pain and with His Heavenly Father in Heaven waiting For You To Join John. John was a wonderful person, Thankful God made John a part of our earthly family. May God Continue To Bless You and Your Family. We are with You in our Hearts Today, Love You ☝️?❣️

  40. Sharron Jones
    February 4, 2023 @ 1:17 pm

    So sorry for your loss. Love and prayers!

  41. Donna Luna
    February 4, 2023 @ 4:51 pm

    So sorry for your loss. John was high on our list of a fine man. Our girls thought the world of him. Prayers for you, Anna Mae and your family.

    Ron & Donna Luna

  42. Sheila Smith
    February 4, 2023 @ 10:38 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear of John’s passing. He was a good man.
    He is rejoicing in heaven with his sweet mother and dad!
    Prayers for AnnaMae and family!!

  43. Terry Saling
    February 6, 2023 @ 9:07 am

    Dear Anna and Sarah, My heart is saddened by the news of John’s passing. May God comfort you in his loss, Love You, Terry

  44. Donna & Doyle Fink
    February 6, 2023 @ 5:37 pm

    Prayers of comfort for Johns family & friends now & in the days ahead.

  45. Joe, Barbara, and TJ Nix
    March 1, 2023 @ 3:37 pm

    What a fine man….respected and loved by so many….he was so kind to TJ at FairView years ago…rest in peace Mr. Burkhead…..