In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Donna Sue Cooper Burnett, 80

Donna Sue Cooper Burnett, 1942-2023 . IMB Photo

Donna Sue Cooper Burnett, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Vietnam, died Jan. 15, 2023. She was 80.  

Donna was born Sept. 12, 1942, in Nowata, Oklahoma, to the late Arnold and Lucille Cooper. She attended Cameron Junior College in Lawton, Oklahoma, and graduated with the Bachelor of Science degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Oklahoma.  

In her letter seeking missionary appointment, Donna wrote that she was very active in First Baptist Church Nowata, and she both became a Christian and committed her life to missions in the church. She wrote that she “surrendered to ‘try to do whatever God wanted,’” at a missions conference in Fort Worth, Texas, while studying in college. 

She was active in the Baptist Student Union (BSU) and spent one summer working at the Baptist Children’s Home in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She met her husband, Samuel Jesse Burnett, at the BSU at Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and they married in 1965. 

Donna and Samuel lived in Fort Worth, Texas, while Samuel attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and preached. Donna taught elementary school before dedicating her time to serving alongside her husband in ministry. After graduating, they moved to Detroit, Michigan, to serve in a Baptist church. They later moved back to Oklahoma to serve in several churches. During their years in Texas, Oklahoma and Michigan, she served as a Girls in Action leader, Sunday School teacher, discipleship training teacher and Vacation Bible School teacher. 

For a time, Donna thought missions service would not be possible due to some educational and health problems of Samuel’s. In 1994, she realized this was not the case, and they pursued appointment with the International Mission Board.  

In 1995, the International Mission Board appointed Donna and Samuel missionaries to Vietnam.  

The Burnetts served in Vietnam for seven years before retiring. The Burnetts continued to serve the Vietnamese people in the U.S. during their retirement. 

She was described as someone who was always behind the scenes and serving her church family and community. She was known as a faithful prayer warrior and a spiritual leader who desired to point others to Christ. Those who knew her said her servant’s heart and love for the Lord influenced the Vietnamese she served.   

Donna is preceded in death by her husband, Samuel, of 55 years, and her son-in-law Tom Garrett.  

She is survived by her children Suzann Burnett, Docia Gayle Garrett, and Aaron Burnett (Brenda); seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.   

A funeral service was held Jan. 19, 2023, at Moore Funeral Homes in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Read an obituary here.