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Husband’s early onset dementia diagnosis prompts wife to seek yearbooks, photos to spark memories

By Richard Rourk

A local couple is seeking the help of families that may have access to local school yearbooks from the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Grace Burrell is hoping that the yearbooks could help her husband, Kenneth “Lynn” Burrell, mitigate some of his symptoms from early onset dementia.

Grace said she thinks the memorabilia will help spark her husband’s memory and recall.

“Lynn has been diagnosed with early onset dementia,” Grace said. “The pictures really spark memories and get Lynn talking. He’s able to remember more and more things from seeing those early photos.”

She said she is specifically seeking yearbooks from Unicoi County from the years of 1958 to 1960 when her husband was a high school student.

“Any pictures of students from those classes would be greatly appreciated as well,” Grace said. 

The Burrells hope to secure copies of the 1958, 1959 and 1960 Unicoi County High School yearbooks. 

“After school Lynn worked on the CSX and Clinchfield Rail for 30 years as a conductor,” Grace said. 

“About five years ago I started to notice that Lynn would put things where they didn’t go and realized that he had started to forget memories that he should’ve remembered,” she said. 

“We have been married 51 years and you think that we would remember the same things but that wasn’t the case. When you find that an important memory is missing, that’s a red flag in my opinion.”

Fortunately she noticed her husband’s symptoms early and they have been proactive in seeking out methods to keep Lynn’s brain focused and exercised. 

“I got him in to see a neurologist about five years ago and she had put him on medication and it has slowed the process down drastically,” Burrell said. “If people can see the beginning signs of dementia they can seek help.”

Anyone wishing to know more about the signs of early onset dementia can visit for more information.

Anyone who has any copies of photos in Unicoi County from 1958-60 or any Unicoi County High School yearbooks for sale from 1958-60 can call Alice Burrell at (423) 833-4106. Text messages are also welcome at (423) 440-3754. 

“Anything that can bring a memory to him is a wonderful gift for me,” Grace said. 

Copies of pictures or yearbooks to donate from 1958 to 1960 can also be dropped off at The Erwin Record. The newspaper will deliver them to the Burrells.