Monday, June 16, 2014

Dr. John B. Burns (USAF Retired): Jan. 7, 1936–June 16, 2014

My father passed away this morning after eight years of fighting cancer. He was a physician in the USAF for 20 years, a pediatrician for much of that time. When he retired (a Lt. Col. by choice, having turned down several promotions), he went into residency at USC in Columbia, SC for psychiatry and child psychiatry. He was also very active in Boy Scouts for 45 years, and sponsored a chancel choir at our cathedral and another local parish.

Here is a photo of us at my brother's wedding two years ago.

The wedding was held at the Mountain Magnolia Inn in Hot Springs, NC. Naturally, at the end of May, the bugs were out in force. My father had a remedy, though: Bounce dryer sheets. He would tuck one into his shirt pocket and another in the collar of his shirt behind his neck. He went bug free all weekend and went around the wedding rehearsal and reception singing the praises of Bounce.

I wrote a poem a few years ago as a Fathers' Day tribute, I think. It's not very good, but it had sentimental value to my father... a lot like the belt I made for him. Here's is the belt I made in 7th grade. He gave it back to me around Christmas time this year.

When I was working on my MA in theology and finishing diaconal formation, I prayed on a number of occasions that he be able to see me finish both of those goals. I had hoped he'd be around to see me finish a doctorate, but I am happy that he at least saw his son ordained.

Enjoy those heavenly choirs, Dad. You have earned a seat in front.


I apologize to anyone who perhaps doesn't quite get my family's sensibilities or sense of humor. The funeral home that is handling the arrangements usually drapes the bodies of veterans as they remove them from the homes. Unfortunately, the last person who took out the van forgot to restock the van with flags, so we looked around to find a suitable flag. Dad had a couple around, but the first one we found in his closet was a Betsy Ross flag. We didn't notice until we started to unfold it that it only had 13 stars. The only other flag had been used at summer camps over the years and had water stains and rust marks. So the Betsy Ross flag won out. Before the attendants removed my father from the house, I stepped out side where my sister-in-law Emily waited, and I told her that they had draped my father with a flag from his childhood.

In actuality, it was more like a flag from my childhood. I have always been a colonial history buff. Perhaps my father intended it this way because he was aware that I would be helping with the final arrangements. In any case, he went out draped in a revolution-era flag.

Update 2:

My father's obituary and tribute wall.
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