John Burns

Obituary of John J. Burns

JOHN JOSEPH BURNS Age 80, of Wilkinsburg, PA, passed away peacefully at home, Wednesday, May 13th, 2020, after a long struggle with the discomfort and pain of renal failure. He was lovingly attended by his dear wife of 54 years, Jean Weir Burns, and his devoted daughter, Corinna Burns, of Philadelphia, PA. In his last hours, other beloved family members were able to visit him electronically, to his delight, including his son, Conor J. Burns, daughter-in-law, Maria Sullivan, adored grandchildren, Theresia and Emmett Burns, all of Toronto, ON; his daughter, Jessica Burns, and adored granddaughter, Marguerite Davis, of Charlottesville, VA. Also visiting were John's brother, Terrence Burns, and his wife Elizabeth Corby Burns, of Lawrenceville, NJ; and John's sister, Marianne (Burns) Cernosek, and her husband Larry Cernosek, of Crofton, MD. John's surviving family also includes many amazing nieces and nephews. John was born and grew up in Scranton, PA, on October 9th, 1939, son of John and Dorothy (Grey) Burns. He graduated from Notre Dame University in 1961, where he majored in the Program of Liberal Studies. He was then invited by the U.S. Army to enhance his liberal arts education through an intensive course in reality studies at Fort Hood. He subsequently earned an M.A. in Philosophy, and began coursework towards a Ph.D., at the University of Toronto, where he met and married his wife Jean, also a graduate student. After two years of teaching as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Catawba College in Salisbury, NC, he returned to Toronto, where the birth of his son Conor interrupted his Ph.D. thesis work, but established the Canadian branch of the family. John and his family then moved to California, PA, where he taught Philosophy and Business Law at California University of Pennsylvania from 1969 to 2005. During this time, he earned a law degree at Duquesne University. After retirement he lived with his wife in Wilkinsburg or in nearby nursing homes, as health permitted. He was a member of St. James R.C. Church (now St. Mary Magdalene Parish). Family and friends will recall John Burns at his best as a brilliant, witty, thought-provoking conversationalist, teacher, and story-teller. He loved watching and commenting about movies on Turner Classic Movies and he remained knowledgeable and vocal about current news and the political climate. While he was unable during his final months to enjoy smoking his treasured collection of pipes and fine tobaccoes, he would probably have wished to be remembered as doing so, comfortably seated in the summer sunshine of our backyard. Because of Covid-19 restrictions, family commemorations will be held privately at this time, with a later memorial and reunion in John's honor. We want to express our heartfelt gratitude for the medical, caregiving, spiritual, and emotional support provided during John's last months by Compassionate Care Hospice. Arrangements are by Thomas L. Nied Funeral Home, Inc. Donations may be made for a memorial mass at your church or to your local food bank or library. Or just raise a parting glass and say a prayer, in Irish, if possible.
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