Macon . . . Briana Rene Burgess, a beautiful and gentle soul, was born December 9, 1991 in Savannah, Georgia. She valiantly fought a long battle with anxiety and depression and was recently diagnosed as being on the Autistic Spectrum. This diagnosis finally helped explain many of her lifelong challenges and strengths, and also provided some hope for developing a strategy for successfully moving forward in life. However, after more than a decade of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted by mental illness - which accelerated with PTSD in the past five years - and despite being surrounded and supported by people who loved and adored her, she bravely chose to end her pain and struggle Wednesday, November 6, 2019 at 27 years old.
Briana graduated Magna Cum Laude as a double major in Spanish and Environmental Policy from Mercer University in 2014, where she received an academic scholarship, HOPE Scholarship and American City Business Journals’ Ray Shaw Memorial Scholarship. After her Freshman and Sophomore years, she served as an intern in environmental studies at Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC. After her Junior year, she traveled to Brazil with Mercer on Mission to provide socio-economic aid and environmental cleanup in impoverished communities (favelas) and offer after-school care for elementary school children. After college, she participated as a “WWOOFer” in World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms in Madison, Georgia where she learned farming and livestock care, contributed to land sustainability and farm-to-table distribution in support of the organic movement. She achieved an International Baccalaureate (IB) Degree from Riverwood International Charter School in 2010, graduating in the top 3% of her class.
Briana had recently been employed by United Way of Central Georgia, serving in the Economic Mobility AmeriCorps VISTA program where she managed community relations through ongoing outreach initiatives and services for economically disadvantaged individuals. She had previously served as Project Manager in Economic Development for the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce. During college and high school, she was loved by her part-time work families at the Mercer Barnes & Noble Bookstore in Macon and St. Angelo’s Pizza in Atlanta, and she was also a member of Northside Drive Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Briana’s passion, knowledge and competitive skills of all things Pokémon are unprecedented. In high school, she traveled to Nashville and New York City to battle at official Pokémon tournaments in hopes of winning the grand prize and taking a vacation with her mom to compete at an international tournament in Hawaii. In NYC, she advanced to a semi-final round only to be defeated by the previous year’s defending champion. In recent years, with a small investment and encouragement from her stepfather, she became a licensed grader of Pokémon cards and turned her childhood fascination and teenage obsession into a profitable business, buying and selling collectibles on e-Bay with a 100% customer service satisfaction rating.
Briana loved cats and adopted many stray cats over the years that became beloved family pets, including Dylan, Whiskers, Charlie, Phoebe and April. She enjoyed sharing funny cat memes on social media as a hobby that provided an inside glimpse of her irreverent and hysterical sense of humor.
Survivors include her sassy tuxedo cat, April; mother Dixie Cox and stepfather Jon Lunn; dad and stepmom, Craig and Penny Burgess; maternal grandmother “Miss Betty” Cox Hill and paternal step-grandmother Margaret "Peggy" Lunn; step-brothers Daniel Lunn and Jonathan Lunn; aunts and uncles Cheryl and John G. Rawls, Jr., Lauren and John Robeson, Dr. Clayton and Winter Cox, Alex Burgess, Michael and Fran Lunn; Kelly and Ken Grayburn; cousins Britton Rawls (Ansley), John G. Rawls, III (Shelly), Clay Woody (Brooke), Nathan Woody, William Woody, Ashley Cox, Torie Cox, Clay Cox (Samantha), Anneliese Cox Jones (Corey), Dustin Hudson (Sydney) and Tiffany Burgess (Steven Hurst), Ryan Lunn, Jessica Lunn Plugge (Caleb), Kirsten Lunn, Chelsea Grayburn and Sean Grayburn. She was preceded in death by her paternal grandparents, Betty and Clifford Burgess of Savannah, her maternal step-grandfather “Pop” Colonel William B. Hill of Forsyth, paternal step-grandfather Richard H. Lunn of Pittsburgh, PA and her maternal grandfather, Lawrence “Larry” Starr Cox of Forsyth, by whom she will be laid to rest.
A graveside service celebrating her life and offering a message of hope will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, November 16, 2019, at Monroe Hills Memorial Gardens, Highway 41 North, Forsyth, Georgia. Doctor H. Darrell Watson will officiate, and several close friends will speak in her memory. A display area will be set up to allow friends and family to display sentimental items, favorite pictures and mementos during the service.
Briana’s mother requests that donations be made to support Overflow Foundation https/overflow.foundation or to a local Rape Crisis Center in Briana’s name.
Monroe County Memorial Chapel has charge of arrangements.