Brian Patrick Burns
The Emerald Isle never had a prouder descendant than Brian Patrick Burns of Palm Beach, FL, formerly of San Francisco, CA who died peacefully on August 12 at the age of 85.
As a third-generation Irish American he immersed himself in Irish culture and history. This passion and dedication throughout his life named him one of the "Greatest Irish Americans of the 20th Century" by Irish America magazine.
Brian will be lovingly remembered by his wife, Eileen Corroon Burns of Palm Beach, and by their eight children and 15 grandchildren.
Mr. Burns married Eileen Corroon, his "perfect lifetime partner," in New York City in 1994. "Together Eileen and I fulfilled a lot of our dreams. The Latin expression 'dimidium anima mea,' says it best—Eileen was 'the one half of my very existence," Mr. Burns said.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Alice Blake of Andover, MA; his father, The Honorable John J. Burns; his siblings John J. Burns, Jr., Daniel Blake Burns, Professor Robert Emmett Burns and Ellen Moira Burns.
Born on July 12, 1936 in Cambridge, MA, Mr. Burns attended, Belmont Hill School, and Saint Sebastian Preparatory School, and graduated from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, (class of '57) where he served as a trustee for more than a decade.
Following in his father's footsteps, he attended Harvard Law School, where he obtained his law degree at the young age of 23.
He was a senior partner at several leading law firms in San Francisco. He accomplished more than 50 major mergers and acquisitions playing important and pivotal roles in companies that included the United States Banknote Corp., The Kellogg Company, Coca Cola Bottling of NY, Beverly-Wilshire Hotel, Brinks, Inc., Boothe Financial Corporation, Pacific Holdings Corporation, Robert Half International, Inc., Kendall-Jackson Winery, Inc., among others. He also served as the Chairman and CEO of Boothe Financial Corp. and Robert Half International, Inc., and was the Chairman of BF Enterprises, Inc., Palm Beach, FL.
Mr. Burns served as a trustee and advisor to the principal trusts of Joseph P. Kennedy family.
In 1963, he became the youngest director of the American Irish Foundation, established by President John F. Kennedy and Irish President Eamon de Valera. In an effort to expand its reach, he spearheaded the merger of the American Irish Foundation and the Ireland Fund, founded by Dan Rooney and Irish born Sir Anthony O'Reilly.
His service and leadership included the Ireland-American Economic Advisory Council from 1995-2011, along with being the Vice Chairman of the Fulbright Commission in Ireland from 1993-1998.
A tremendous source of personal pride was establishing The Honorable John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College in memory of his father. Dedicated in 1986 and described as the "Guardian of Irish Culture," the Burns Library houses the largest, most comprehensive collection of Irish research materials outside Ireland.
The Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program that Mr. Burns established in 1991, made it possible for the University to welcome scholars, writers and artists who made significant contributions to Irish culture and intellectual life.
Mr. Burns, who served as a trustee to Boston College from 1998-2006, also helped to establish its Irish campus at St. Stephen's Green in Dublin, Ireland.
A noble testament to his Irish heritage was his vast private collection of more than 200 works of Irish art, which he began acquiring in the 1970s based on his belief that "a people so well known for literature and music surely should also be able to paint."
Among the numerous charities supported by the Burns are The Palm Beach Police Foundation to which his wife Eileen was a founding board member, Palm Beach Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Society of the Four Arts, The Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach Pops Symphony Orchestra, and Palm Beach Atlantic University.
In addition to his loving wife, Mr. Burns is survived by his siblings Alice Therese Scanlon and Michael Burns; his children Sheila Burns McWilliams (Keith McWilliams), Brian P. Burns, Jr., Sean Richard Burns, Roderick O'Connor Burns (Jill Burns), Stephanie Fairchild Kovner (Bruce Kovner), Samantha Fairchild Storkerson (Chris Storkerson), Serena Fairchild Sheldon (Tyler Sheldon); and grandchildren Sean McWilliams, Justin McWilliams, Caitlyn McWilliams, Ryan McWilliams, Fiona Burns, Kelsey Burns, Conor Burns, John Burns, Liam Storkerson, Oscar Storkerson, Caroline Griswold, Olivia Griswold, Roger Griswold III, Margaux Sheldon, and Luke Sheldon.
Brian was brilliant, loyal, witty, generous and the kindest of spirits. He was a loving father and friend to so many, leaving a legacy that will live forever in the hearts of those he touched.
He was a longtime member of St. Edward's Catholic Church in Palm Beach, where a Memorial Mass will be celebrated in his honor on Friday, August 20, 2021 at 11:00 am. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Mr. Burn's memory to the Palm Beach Police and Fire Foundation, 139 North County Rd., Suite 26, Palm Beach, FL 33480 (www.pbpf.us
Published by San Francisco Chronicle from Aug. 14 to Aug. 15, 2021.