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Mark Wilton Burns

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Mark Wilton Burns passed away in his Brinnon home on February 25, 2011. He was 89. Born January 1, 1922, in Springfield, Massachusetts, he was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Gertrude Ihrig Burns. The middle of three sons raised by a widower who ran his own ice business, Dad became an artillery sergeant with the U.S. Marines Fifth Division in World War II. He landed on Iwo Jima on D1, and knew the men memorialized in the famous flag-raising statue. In a long career as a field rep with Pratt & Whitney, he worked for years as a liaison with Boeing in Seattle. Though he wore a business suit to work, he was always a hands-on guy, ruining many a dress shirt when he pitched in to help repair a jet engine. Dad's career took him all over the world. He took part in test flights for the first passenger jet engines in the 1950s, and in 1963 represented his firm on the around-the-world maiden flight of Boeing's 727, stopping in 26 nations and flying 76,000 miles in 70 days. In his job he investigated plane crashes, which took him to remote locales, from islands off Alaska to far reaches of the South Pacific. In the mid-1960s Pratt & Whitney moved him to Australia, where he eventually concluded his career as field service representative for Australia and the South Pacific. Many of Dad's happiest memories were from Australia, where his eight children spent many of their younger years. We'll always remember the daiquiri parties Mom and Dad threw in Melbourne; swimming in the back yard in Sydney; his pruning of the lemon tree so that it didn't fruit again for seven years; taking us to the Parahan pool, where all the other kids wanted to play with our dad. Dad was a true renaissance man and shared his love of music with his children, all of whom were given music lessons whether it took or not. On Sunday mornings, recordings of opera, Gilbert and Sullivan or Spike Jones blared through the house, even though our tolerant mother preferred Country Western music. He decorated the house with carvings from Papua New Guinea and Aboriginal barks from Australia, which he collected in the 1960s at a time when indigenous art was underappreciated. After he retired and had time to read, we discovered Dad's love of early American history. Dad devotedly documented our lives in home movies and kept a file on each of his eight children with all our school reports, first pay stubs and drawings. He was also a loving grandfather, known for frying up 'eggy' sandwiches for any kid who wanted one. Dad and Mom retired to Brinnon, on Hood Canal, in 1987. He is survived by his brothers, George and Robert; his children, Mary, Kathleen, Mark, Ann, Barbara, Margaret, Julie and Sarah, and their families. Dad, we will miss you. A graveside service will be at 10:00 a.m. Monday, March 7, at Holyrood Catholic Cemetery, 205 N.E. 205th St., Shoreline.
Published in The Seattle Times on Mar. 3, 2011
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