Briana Purser was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, January 23, 1973. As an only child, her parents, Jerry and Ahlane Purser, doted on Briana. Some of Briana’s first memories were taking yearly vacations to Panama City, Florida and numerous trips to Gatlinburg. She spent time in the summer outside with her father. They gardened together and she and her mother canned vegetables. Briana lost her dad in 2011.
Her parents had friends who had a daughter Briana’s age, so being an only child was not lonely. Briana had a happy and healthy childhood. She didn’t receive her first broken bone until she was 29 years old.
Unfortunately, her parents divorced in 1989. “My mother is an inspiration to me,” says Briana. “After her divorce, she worked two jobs to provide for us. I still look up to her and admire her, today.”
Briana grew up in First Free Will Baptist Church. At the young age of 10 years old, she gave her life to the Lord. She changed from First Free Will Baptist Church to White Oak Baptist Church, before coming to Middle Cross Baptist Church.
Briana graduated from Red Bank High School in 1991. “I was a band geek,” she says. “I took piano lessons for eight years, learned to play the flute in the seventh grade, and I also played the piccolo. I made good grades and hardly had to study. But, I didn’t like geometry and made my only bad grade in that class. I don’t know why I disliked geometry so much, because I liked all my other subjects.”
After high school Briana attended Chattanooga State for two years. “I didn’t pick a major; I just took the required courses of English, math, etc.”
To prove she was a ‘geek,’ Briana explains how she and some other band members and friends decided to ‘roll’ someone’s yard one Halloween. “We rolled a friend’s yard … or we attempted to roll the yard,” says Briana. “We were so geeky; we didn’t even know how to do that properly. I don’t think very much of the toilet paper actually got into the trees. We didn’t get into any trouble or have to clean up the mess, because we rolled the yard so poorly.”
Briana says she is really shy until she gets to know someone. She had two best friends back in school who are still her friends today. “I met one of my friends in elementary school. I like her so much because she is silly, goofy, upbeat, and always read to go,” Briana laughs. “My other friend is about the same way. She always has a good attitude. I admire both for these special qualities.”
Briana says she was not particularly adventurous when she was younger. “I did ride roller coasters and the free-fall at Six Flags,” she admits. “I also like canoeing (in calm waters).”
After high school, Briana went to work at Physicians Care, was a bank teller, and a Wal-Mart pharmacy technician, before going to work at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. “I wanted to be a radiology tech, but I was never able to get into the class.” Briana has worked at Blue Cross for more than 13 years, where she is a Medical Management Technician.
Briana just recently started working from home for Blue Cross. “It is very convenient. I can even work in my PJ’s,” she says. “I don’t leave the house most weekdays. It saves a lot on gas and my time.”
Years ago, while Briana was attending Middle Cross Baptist Church, she was in the Sunday school class with Sandra Feltman, and her daughter, Rhonda. Benny was going through a wild period in his life, and some of the time, his family didn’t even know where he was. “Sandra was always asking for prayers for Benny,” says Briana. “I would write down Sunday school prayer requests and we always had Benny on the prayer list.”
Benny finally got his life together, moved back to Chattanooga, and started attending Middle Cross Baptist Church.
The church was having a Valentine’s banquet and Benny asked Briana to be his date. “I had a former boyfriend and he was my date for the banquet. Benny didn’t give up, however. He brought me flowers to the banquet, and, when my date left early, Benny and I were together the rest of the time at the banquet.”
They started dating February 2001 and married December 8, 2001. Benny proposed to Briana at a cookout at her dad’s house that June. Gene and Sandra Feltman, and all the other family members were there to see Benny propose. “Benny dropped down on one knee and asked me to marry him in front of everyone.”
Their immediate family now includes a stray cat, Boo, who adopted them.
Briana says she is a pretty good cook, but doesn’t cook a lot anymore. “When I worked downtown, Benny got home from work a lot earlier than I did, so he started cooking our supper,” says Briana. “I always loved to book … but I hate to clean up afterwards. I have a few special dishes that people ask me to make for them, including pigs in a blanket, and Benny loves my taco soup. I also make a very good chicken pot pie.”
In her spare time, Briana loves scrapbooking and reading. She considers herself a prompt person. “I can’t stand being late, so I am usually a few minutes early to wherever we are going.”
Even though Briana says she is pretty content with her life, she would like to travel to Hawaii or Fuji someday. Her favorite movies are romantic comedies and suspense movies. “I love to read the Bible and I like Danielle Steel books,” says Briana. “I like Alabama football and I can tolerate NASCAR.
Benny and Briana support the Multiple Sclerosis campaigns because of Melissa Hunt, who has the disease. “I am passionate and stand firm on my faith and beliefs,” she says. “I won’t compromise my faith for anybody or anything.”
Her favorite Bible verse is Ecclesiastes 3:1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
Most people don’t know that Briana had a blood clot in her brain in 2000. “I was at work and I sneezed. It was on Valentine’s Day. After I sneezed, I got a really bad headache and I went home sick,” says Briana. “I eventually went to Physicians Care and they thought I had a sinus infection or something like that.”
She kept being sick and finally called Dr. Rankin, a neurologist. He sent her for an MRI and told her not to let them read the report – but to bring the test results back to him. He diagnosed her with a pseudo tumor.
She then had a spinal tap and they drained fluid off her brain. From February to April Briana had three more spinal taps. She told the doctor she could not handle taking any more of those tests. “I then had an arteriogram on Tuesday and was put in the hospital on Friday,” she continues. “That’s when they finally found that I had experienced a blood clot. But, by this time, the blood clot was gone. When I was so sick, I was out of work for six weeks.”
Briana is among a very few number of original members who were at Middle Cross from the very beginning. Bob and Jean Osborne and Maynard and Margaret Woods were also members then. “My best friend, Denise Braden attended church here with me. When I started here, we were already on this site, but we were in a tiny house here,” Briana explains. “The preacher, at that time, was Odell Broadway. Our associate pastor was Bill Walls. Later the pastors were Rick Edwards and Gary Shirley. We were without a pastor some of the time. I stopped coming to Middle Cross for a while during that time. Actually, I quit going to church at all for a few years. I left in 1993 and returned to church around 1998-99.”
Briana loves to sing and was always in the choir. She also sang some duets with her friend, Denise. Everyone at the church wishes Briana would treat us to her special singing more often. “I get very nervous singing,” she says. “It’s very nerve-racking. I am pretty shy until I get to know someone. But, I love to sing.”
Briana says, “I love the Lord with all my heart. I thank Him for all his blessings and look forward to continuing to serve Him.”
Update July 2012: Briana began taking piano lessons again and is playing piano full time time at Middle Cross Baptist Church. Bro. Ed laughs that we were having a hard time finding a piano player, “so we are growing our own!”