Ruth Pierce Burton, talented artist and seamstress, community servant and founder of the annual Waxahachie Gingerbread Trail, passed away Wednesday, Feb. 16, at the age of 95. The daughter of William and Doreecie Pitts Pierce, Burton was born in Ferris on Feb. 3, 1916. She graduated from Waxahachie High School in 1933 and married Cecil Burton in 1935.
Burton is best known as “the Gingerbread Lady,” a title officially designated by the Waxahachie City Council in 2002.
While traveling, the Burtons took part in a trail of old homes. When they returned home, they brought the idea with them and created the Gingerbread Tour, which has been a tradition ever since.
Mitti Bowren, Waxahachie artist and member of the Ellis County Art Association, recalled her 20-year friendship with Burton and their association in the art community.
“She was a big influence over us all. I knew her before I started painting and had bought art from her. She was well known throughout Waxahachie. I had a painting done by her from a photograph I had taken when I was on a trip,” Bowren said. “She and her husband would go on trips for weeks and months and she would paint. That was just her life. She was a very talented lady and very involved in Waxahachie.”
Burton started painting when she was 14 but was creating art long before, drawing on the side walk and on the fly pages of her mother’s good books. She said she was probably born with a paintbrush in her hand. Over her lifetime she created hundreds of landscapes, florals and portraits.
Carol Farrar of Waxahachie was close to the Burton household through her friendship growing up with Burton’s daughter, Olivia.
“When I was a little girl, my grandfather was a chiropractor and she would come in for treatment and sometime Olivia would come too and we became friends,” Farrar said, saying she and Burton both attended First United Methodist Church in Waxahachie, where she saw her often. “She always wore pretty colors and had a smile on her face. She was smiling and pleasant and I loved to listen to her laughing. We are going to miss her.”
Farrar said Burton was a talented seamstress and recalls her sewing elaborate costumes for a local dance studio and creating prom gowns.
“She was a wonderful lady. She always made our prom dresses and was very active in the community,” said Hilda Chapman of Gingerbread Antiques. “She was always willing to give and help out.”
Burton was honored as Waxahachie’s First Lady in 1993 and received the Historic Preservation Leadership Award in 2004. She was a founder and charter member of the Ellis County Historical Museum and served on the boards of numerous community boards and committees, including Ellis County Art Association, Ellis County Crippled Children, Ellis County Federated Clubs and Waxahachie City Zoning.
“I have known her since my early teens, about 55 years ago,” said Ann Allen, local antique dealer. “She always lived in her neat house on Ferris Avenue. She always worked to promote Waxahachie and the community.”
Burton is survived by her daughter and son-in-law, Olivia and Fred Harrington of Waxahachie; granddaughters and their husbands, Angela and Bob Heck of Midlothian and Teenya and Alan Barnard of Rockport; and two great-grandchildren.
Contact Rebecca at email@example.com or call 469-517-1451.