Debra Annette (Burnham) Alexis

1955 ~ 2023 (age 67) 67 Years Old

Debra Alexis Obituary

Debra Anne (Burnham) Alexis, 67, of Jamesville, NY, passed away peacefully on Friday, July 14, 2023 with loving family by her side. She was born in Utica, NY to the late Edward and Helen (Cutaffa) Burnham and was raised in Deansboro, NY with her brother Michael. 

After receiving her high school diploma in June of 1973 from Waterville Central School, she attended S.U.N.Y at Cobleskill and received an A.S in Nursery Education in 1975. She then went on to earn a B.S. in Elementary Education/Early Childhood Education from S.U.N.Y. at Oswego NY in 1977. In 1993 while simultaneously working, studying, and raising her infant daughter, she completed her M.S. in Special Ed./Emotional Disturbance/Autism from Syracuse University. In the same year, she earned two permanent teaching certifications from the State of New York Education Department in the areas of: special education; nursery, kindergarten, & grades 1-6.

Debra was a deeply loving and nurturing individual who dedicated her life to improving the lives of others. As an early childhood special education teacher focusing on autism, she tookthe time to get to know each of her students individually and developed comprehensive learning plans tailored to their specific needs. She worked with her fellow teachers, the school, and parents to effectively implement these plansand advocated passionately to secure additionalservices. She not only taught her students critical skills that they needed to succeed in life, but also inspired them to believe in themselves. She derived immense joy from watching her students learn and grow. Keeping with her legacy of helping others through education, she proudly donated her body to science so that the next generation of medical professionals may learn from her and go on to provide excellent care to their patients.

When asked to reflect on her life and express her proudest accomplishment, she replied confidently without even a hint of hesitation “my daughter”. Parenting as a team with her husband Smith of 35 years, she adored her role as a mother and poured her heart into providing a truly wonderful childhood for their daughter Nadine that was full of deep unconditional love, care and support. She provided countless opportunities for creative learning, self-exploration, and always was there to listen, comfort, and provide guidance to navigate through all of life’s many moments. She inspired and supported her daughter’s life-long loves of dance, LEGOs, and connecting with others. They shared an immensely close bond, communicating on a daily basis and remained best friends through the very end.

Debra loved to have fun and enjoyed spending quality time with family, friends, neighbors, and pets. When the weather was nice, she’d attend live music events, arts and crafts festivals, tend to her garden, ride her recumbent trike around Onondaga Lake with her dog, Bob or bring him to the local dog park to enjoy the fresh air. Debra had a blast connecting with a number of friend groups. Together they’d gather for New Years Eve, Super Bowl, Halloween, birthday, Bunco, and Tripoli parties. Many good friends that she grew up with kept in touch with her throughout the years. She also volunteered at the CNY Cat Coalition and was an avid non-fiction reader. 

She is survived by her husband, Smith Alexis, daughter, Nadine Alexis; brother, Michael Burnham, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and friends

A private celebration of life was held on September 30, 2023.

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