|Robert Milton Burns, M.D.
Bob was born April 6, 1921 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, the fourth child of David and Ada Burns. When his father lost his bookkeeping job in 1932, the family spent three difficult years on a drought-ridden farm before selling everything they owned and heading to Seattle in an old Ford truck, arriving at a campsite on Aurora Avenue just as the money ran out. For several years, the resilient Burnses managed apartments on Capitol Hill, and at 15, Bob was serving as a night janitor, living on his own in a vacant apartment, reading until the wee hours, and running up to Broadway High School for class.
Throughout his life, Bob excelled as a student, and in 1940, he was accepted on full scholarship to Whitman College. There he won the heart of Betty Matlock, dazzling her with his knowledge of the constellations one June night. By the fall of ’43, they were engaged, just before he was inducted into the Army. Bob served with distinction as a combat medic with the 87th Infantry in Europe, earning a Bronze Star in the Saar and a Silver Star in the Battle of the Bulge.
Bob and Betty were married on his return, and both worked in the fledgling family carpet-cleaning business, D.A. Burns & Sons, until Bob finished up his undergraduate degree and entered the UW Medical School in 1953. After a residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital, he began a busy pediatric practice, first at Group Health Central and later at the Burien clinic. Along the way, Bob and Betty moved with their two daughters to Mt. Baker, where they were active in the community club and neighborhood schools. Bob loved poetry and the classics, math and science, political and philosophical debates, fishing and camping, and home remodeling adventures with his son-in-law. His appetite for hard work was legendary: six weeks after an aortic valve transplant at age 80, he was hauling sacks of concrete out of the basement, whistling and singing all the while. After a cardiac arrest at 88, he defied overwhelming odds to resume complete independence, including meticulous recordkeeping on his PC.
He was a beloved son and brother, as well as a generous and devoted father, grandparent, uncle, and friend. And to Betty, for whom he was the primary caretaker until her death in 2011, he was a loving and loyal husband for 66 years. Bob was predeceased by his daughter, Mary Rebecca, whom he loved dearly. He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law Katherine and Robert Vaughan; his nephews and nieces David and Sheila Burns, Patty and Jerry Rasmussen, Linda Johnson, and Penny and Jim York; his grandchildren – of whom he was intensely proud -- Daniel (Eliza Lagerquist) Vaughan, Sarah Bassuk (Devon) Mundal, and Elizabeth Vaughan; and his great-granddaughter Cecelia, who lit up his face until the end. Even in his last days, he never lost his sense of humor and ready smile. He literally never complained, but faced each change squarely, fearlessly, and with gratitude for the loving care given by Sandy Schmelzle and Julie Manhan, whose generous presence allowed both Bob and Betty to live out their lives at home, surrounded by family. Many hands made his care light work, including Group Health Hospice, grandnephew Reed Rasmussen, and helpers from Home Instead.
On June 8, 2012 Bob died peacefully in his sleep at home, with Katherine and Robert beside him, after 91 well-lived years.
Elizabeth Louise Matlock Burns
Elizabeth Louise Matlock was born July 5, 1924 to John and Blanche Matlock in Kamiah, Idaho. After her parents died in separate accidents a few years later, economic necessity separated Betty from her siblings Todd and Anita, and she came to live with the family of her father's sister, Lona Wattenbarger of Tacoma.
Undaunted by this difficult beginning, Betty always showed a remarkable sense of autonomy and purpose. She earned good grades at Lincoln High while holding student offices and twirling a baton for the drill team.She bussed tables to help pay expenses at Whitman College, where she studied psychology. There she also met the love of her life, Robert Burns, who intrigued her one warm June night in 1943 with his knowledge of the constellations and launched a concerted campaign to win her heart before joining the army in December.
They married in 1945, and settled in Seattle's Mt. Baker neighborhood, where they raised daughters Katherine and Mary Rebecca. Betty finished her degree at the UW in 1965, and later earned an MSW, all while being a supportive mother to two teenagers and devoted wife to a hard-working pediatrician. She worked with social welfare agencies for a time, but her heart was always with family, friends, and community, where she was an officeholder in the Mt. Baker Community Club and John Muir Elementary.
In retirement, she pursued her love of learning through elderhostel travel, the Women's University Club, and book groups. A woman of simple tastes, she loved dance, theater, crosswords, puzzles of all kinds, chess, and bridge. Betty was a reserved person who kept her own counsel and protected her soft heart. Her greatest sorrow was the loss of her daughter Rebecca.
But she dearly loved her grandchildren - Daniel and Elizabeth Vaughan, and Rebecca's daughter Sarah Bassuk - and was thrilled with their choices in life and love. Last July, Sarah's marriage to Devon Mundal and the birth of Cecelia Claire to Daniel and his wife Eliza Lagerquist brought happiness and joy that lasted all year long.
Betty was kind, discerning, self-effacing, wise, and wry to the end. To the kind hospice nurse explaining her transition to a new team of helpers the day before she died, Betty whispered, 'Well, good. I was hoping for a new social circle!' To her daughter Katherine, who offered on Betty's recent birthday that she'd probably had better ones, she explained that 1944 was much worse, as she waited to hear when Bob would be shipped overseas.
Betty was also unwaveringly loyal to those she loved. Never one to call attention to herself, she made friends wherever she went, always curious about people and their personal histories, always modest about her own accomplishments.
She was loved and will be missed by her husband Bob, her daughter and son-in-law Katherine and Robert Vaughan, her grandchildren, her cousin Trula Morris, her many friends, and the extended Burns family, of whom she was the last matriarch.
The family wishes to thank all the kind caregivers who made it possible for Betty to live out her days at home in a comfortable and loving setting: Sandy Schmelzle, Julie Manhan, Gina Belicina, Reed Rasmussen, and April Plewa.