A History of the Burns Family
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Don and Helen's Tribute to Ada and Guy  

Author's Note

These letters were written in honor of Ada and Guy's
seventieth wedding anniversary, May 2, 1974.
They also got a letter from the White House.


May 27, 1974
On your 70th anniversary

Dear Mother and Dad,

It is easy for me to write about what you mean to me, for I am largely a product of my early home life.

I have always been proud of my father and mother. After seeing literally hundreds of children in my classroom who are ashamed by their parents' behavior, I cannot but be grateful that neither of you has ever, in my memory, done anything to shame me.

Every child's behavior tends to develop around and be patterned after a model. Because of the happy, secure, and close relations in our family, the most significant values of my life are directly related to you. You wanted us to be good, educated worthy men and women who would contribute something to life.

Probably the most dominant value in my life has been a concern for others -- a basic humanism which, I am sure, flowed from my religious heritage, especially a belief in the social gospel and in the brotherhood of man. I remember your concern and interest in people, friends and neighbors. Hazel Murray, the Cowans, Porters, Rometos, Petersons, Pikes, Gillens, Browns, and little Dominic. I remember your acceptance of the two lonely bachelors -- Butch and I can't remember the name of the other. I remember your interest and involvement in missions, Boy Scouts, the Cradle Roll, Beginners, and the building of the new church.

My love of the outdoors, which I learned from you, has been a constant source of joy throughout my life. Some of my earliest and happiest recollections are of the river, the canoe, and picnics. Memories of camping in Gaylord's Grove, fishing trips to Brady Lake, Sandy Lake, Turkey Foot Lake, Mahoning River, and overnight fishing beyond Monroe Falls dam with Grandpa Burns and you Dad, are bright and clear.

I can still feel the intense excitement and sense of adventure at the blackness of the nights and the deep silence, broken occasionally by strange and frightening sounds. My enjoyment of the outdoors is as strong today as it was then. At times my nostalgia for the things, people, or situations that no longer exist saddens me. Mostly, however, I'm just happy that I had them.

Another abiding value born and bred in me was the importance of family and respect for my wife and child. Some would hold that too much affection for family and children is not healthy since it tends to smother the growth and independence of the child. In my case, it was not true. While there were strong family ties, there was acceptance and support of my choice of a life work and direction. I remember you, Mother, going with me to the Penna Station when I left for Chapman College in California. There were no words of lament, only words of encouragement.

Even though our family still was part of the period that looked upon women as subordinate, the mother in our house had an important part in making decisions. We always felt that decisions were made by both of our parents. While you, Dad, were dominant -- as was the accepted relationship for the times -- my attitudes were influenced strongly by your obvious respect for Mother. You did not carry her around on a pedestal but neither did you consider her a second-class citizen. I believe my attitude and respect for my wife were influenced to a great extent by my childhood observations of you and Mother. Of course I must add that my wife is entirely worthy of my respect and love.

I could go on enumerating other values you have given me, but I have limited them to the ones I consider most important. However, there are a few basic values that I have lived by that enable me to sleep well at night -- honesty, simplicity, independence, optimism. In these too you are esentially responsible.

As you son, it is my good fortunte to have had you with me all these years. Few men my age have had that pleasure. My memories of you and our lives together will stay with me always.

Love, Don




May 27, 1974

Dear Mother and Dad,

Since I have been characterized by some as being a sentimental slob and at the same time a cynic, my dilemma is obvious. Which trait shall I expose in this letter?

Certainly your 70th anniversary deserves no cynicism. Seventy years together demand both accolade and sympathy. Both I extend. By any criteria, your years together have been no mean achievement.

Years of association with you have been a vital part of my adult life. Many benefits have resulted from the relationship. My gratitude is deep-rooted.

You accepted me as I was. That act alone took much understanding and tolerance, for I was a young, inexperienced girl who had suddenly become part of your family. At times you must have shivered in apprehension, uncertain that I was a likely mate for your oldest son. But no hint of that uncertainty ever clouded my life. Odd, isn't it, how seldom the word "in-law" was ever spoken between us?

Your marriage and life together produced a man of quality, with whom I have been happy almost 4 decades -- another achievement for which you deserve much credit.

You extended your concern and love to include our daughter when she came along, perpetuating stability and security.

You have aged with grace and dignity, accepting even the roles of great-grandma and great-grandpa with pride. How refreshing in an era when most older ones compete with the young.

As you look back on almost a century of American life, you must be convinced that it was the best of all possible times.

To the last of a breed, salute!