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Frances Burns

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Frances Burns Obituary
Frances Ann Burns, 69, died early September 11 after battling cancer for several years. Frances was relentlessly curious, a person with an encyclopedic memory and eclectic interests who was always ready with a story and an easy laugh, sometimes at her own expense. Her affecting speaking voice, which revealed a sweetness, will linger in the memories of those who knew her. Her intellect was matched only by her kindness and generosity of spirit. Frances was an accomplished, proud journalist of the old school (facts, words, impossible deadlines, demanding editors, cigarettes—she rolled her own for years) who worked for UPI in New Jersey for many years starting in the mid-’80s. She was the namesake of her grandmother, a highly regarded medical reporter for the Boston Globe (Frances told stories about Granny covering Paul Dudley White and Eisenhower’s heart attack). Her father, Dugald Burns, worked for a time as a reporter for the Schenectady Gazette. One of her editors at UPI, Dennis O’Shea, wrote in an email that on weekend shifts, Frances was often the only person covering the entire state of New Jersey, so she would write football copy on top of crime or political news, obituaries, legislative news or human interests stories—all while getting out the weather forecasts and the broadcast news scripts. “You had to be good, and you had to be fast, to succeed at UPI,” wrote O’Shea. “And Frances was both.” Frances reporting was clear and accurate, not fancy, but she had a keen appreciation for the human theater she was witnessing and sharing with readers. She saw the humanity side of the people she reported on—often rogues and pols—and balanced native compassion with wire-service objectivity. For many years, Frances staffed the one-person Newark bureau of UPI and covered high-profile trials in the federal district court there. Like many reporters who covered Atlantic City and the start of casino industry, she had a story about taking a haranguing call from a peeved Donald Trump, upset about a story she wrote. Frances won several Society of Professional Journalists awards and was the recording secretary for the New Jersey chapter’s board of directors for roughly a decade. She grew up in Cohasset, a picturesque coastal town south of Boston, the eldest of the five daughters of Dugald and Amy Burns, nee Kidder. Her New England roots (and, naturally, the Red Sox) were a source of pride. She graduated from St. John’s College in Annapolis in 1969, and spoke often and fondly about being a “Johnnie” and the school’s great books curriculum. She also earned a masters in economics at the New School of Social Research in New York City. Before UPI, she worked at The Dispatch in Union City, N.J., working her way from the copy desk to being a reporter. Frances moved to Trenton after getting hired by UPI and put down roots in the city. She was a lector at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and a member of the adult bible study group there. She frequently attended the yearly gatherings of UPI alumni in New York. Frances is survived by sisters: Susan Maltz (Arlington, Mass.), Charlotte Burns (Palmer, Mass.), Amy Burns (Cambridge, Mass.), and Stephanie Burns (Fairfax, Calif.). Friends and family are invited to attend a memorial service for Frances on Sunday, Sept. 17, at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 801 W. State Street, Trenton, NJ, 08618. Contributions can be made in Frances’s memory to Trinity Cathedral or to St. John’s College, 60 College Ave., Annapolis, MD, 21401.
Published in The Trentonian on Sept. 15, 2017
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