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John Burns

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John Burns Obituary
John Barry Burns
1936 - 2014
John Barry Burns, M.D. (USAF Retired), 78, passed away on June 16, 2014 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
John (Doc) was born on January 7, 1936 to Ralph and Edith (St. Onge) Burns in Montpelier, Vermont. He lived an idyllic childhood in Montpelier and often told us stories of the misadventures he shared with his brother Robert and his friends on Summer Street—starting a pet undertaking service, playing as linemen for Green Mountain Power, shooting rockets from the tower in Hubbard Park. He attended St. Michael's Elementary and High Schools, earning prizes in chemistry and winning the Rensselaer Medal for Mathematics. He turned down an opportunity at Rensselaer Polytechnic and another opportunity at the U.S. Naval Academy to follow his brother, Robert, to the University of Notre Dame. He earned a BS degree with honors at Notre Dame and later graduated from University of Vermont Medical School in 1963. He took a year off of medical school because of illness, and he traveled to San Francisco to stay with friends from college. While there, he worked in a medical lab, where he met and fell in love with a young lady named JoAnn McDonough—something that he hadn't factored into his equations. Not willing to leave his heart in San Francisco, he proposed, and they were married the next year on July 14, 1962, and they returned to Vermont for his final year of medical school.
In a short time, John and JoAnn were expecting their first of three sons, Timothy Edward. After his medical internship, he entered the U.S. Air Force in July of 1964, just five months before the second son, William David (somehow now Reverend William David), arrived at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. Ten years later, another son, Patrick Anthony (probably the most agreeable of the three), would be added to the pack.
Doc entered residency at Denver Children's Hospital and became a star pediatrician in the U.S Air Force, publishing in medical journals but more importantly helping to cure sick children. He identified and documented several unusual cases of intermittent visual inversion in children and also successfully diagnosed and treated Reye's Syndrome in a six-year-old boy—believed to be the first successful diagnosis and treatment of this deadly disease. Tim, Bill, and Pat never encountered a colleague or patient of Doc's who had anything but glowing praise for him.
Doc was a physician first and an officer second, and those priorities always governed his decisions for the future. Following his retirement from the military in 1984, he entered residency for general psychiatry at William S. Hall Psychiatric Institute at the University of South Carolina and continued for another two years as a fellow in Child Psychiatry. Finally happy with exceeding most doctors on the planet with his credentials, Doc packed up the wagon and moved the family back to Boise, taking a position at Intermountain Hospital, where he worked in various capacities until his retirement in 2011.
In addition to the many years of service that he gave to his country and community professionally, Doc also gave a lot of his time to local organizations as well. He was a proud volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America for 45 years, and he coordinated the Men and Boys Chancel Choir at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist and Holy Apostles Catholic Church, his passion for the last 15 years. He was also a member of Knights of Columbus, the American Legion, the Ada County Medical Society, the Idaho Medical Society, and the American Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Association, and a fellow with the American College of Forensic Examiners.
Doc always tried to act the curmudgeon, but no one ever bought it. He absolutely could not tolerate chocolate with raspberries, and he insisted on a vanishingly scarce fruit dessert (nesselrole pie) for his annual natal celebrations. He could be opinionated and stubborn, but he was also exceedingly generous with his time and resources. He was a great mentor for those with whom he worked, and for those he helped in the arduous journey of young life.
He is survived by his wife JoAnn of 52 years, his sons Tim, Bill (Gina), and Pat (Emily), sister-in-law Marilee McDonough, brother-in-law Jack McDonough, granddaughter Kellina Burns Breakfield, Dené Breakfield, Jaron Bass, Caleb Johnson, Hannah Bosch, and Hillary Bosch. He was preceded in death by his parents Ralph and Edith Burns and his brother Robert.
The Burns family would like to thank Dr. Montgomery and the staff at MSTI for their wonderful care. We would also like to thank Brenda as well as Cheryl and all of the hospice staff who cared for Doc in his final days.
A funeral vigil will be held at St. John's Cathedral at 707 N. 8th Boise, Idaho on June 20 at 7:30 PM. A Mass for the Dead will be held at Holy Apostles Catholic Church at 6300 N. Meridian Road, Meridian, Idaho on June 21 at 10:30 AM. The Rite of Committal will follow at a later time at Dry Creek Cemetery in Eagle, Idaho.
Memories and condolences may be shared on John's webpage at

Published in Idaho Statesman on June 19, 2014
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