Ann Therese Burns

REED CITY — Ann Therese Burns, 83, a longtime resident of Reed City and Big Rapids, died peacefully in her sleep on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015. She was surrounded by many of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Many of her lifelong friends knew her as Mitzi. Mitzi was born in Royal Oak on April 14, 1932. A Depression-era child, she spent her childhood skating on the frozen ponds, playing in the woods, running with the neighborhood kids and playing sports near her family home on Connecticut Street.

The oldest of six children, she cared for her siblings while also assisting her mother with many of the chores of that era, many of which were without the ease of modern appliances. While Mitzi was being courted by her future husband, Jack, they enjoyed going to the theater, ice-skating, hot fudge sundaes at Woolworth's and ballroom dancing while listening to the big bands of that era. Following the conclusion of World War II, and with her high school days behind her, Mitzi married her childhood sweetheart, John H. Burns (Jack), of Ferndale. Mitzi and Jack began their married life in a modest, one-bedroom house on Brocton Street, which did not have an indoor bathroom. A newer house on Pickford Street in Detroit would be her next home. They quickly began building their family, and over the course of 17 years, Mitzi delivered seven children. Mitzi raised her children by creatively making the most of the limited salary of a Detroit Police Officer.

Following the Detroit inner-city riots, Jack moved his family north and settled in a large farmhouse in Reed City. Mitzi taught her children to share and to "be happy with what you've got!" She was a mother, foremost, but also the head of the household, a strict disciplinarian and the leader who ushered her children to Catholic Church and Catechism. Mitzi necessarily sewed, knitted and crocheted to provide her children clothing, especially for the cold winter months in Michigan. One of her techniques was to tether the mittens, knitting a long 'cord' which would go through the sleeves of her children's coats to prevent losing their handmade mittens. She was a prolific cook; her home was always filled with the warm smell of homemade soups, stews, sauces and bread. She cooked on a wood burning stove. She was the mother who insisted on her children eating everything on their plate, so "not to waste." Mitzi's natural gift of caring for children was showcased by her outreach to children from broken homes. As a foster parent to a multitude of children, it was all too common for her to receive a call in the dark of night to 'rescue' a child until they were safe to go home or be placed in a permanent foster home. Several of her foster children found long-term residence in her home, which allowed her natural benevolence to love and care for them as if they were her own.

She was an avid reader with a keen mind. She didn't forget birthdays, anniversaries or other events of those within her circle. Besides tormenting her children by her perpetual 'mothering,' Mitzi's greatest passion was her beloved Detroit Tigers baseball team. She was fiercely loyal and it was very rare she would miss a Tiger's broadcast. When away from home, she was typically seen donning her portable radio and headset so as not to miss a single inning. She had the privilege to attend World Series games at Tiger Stadium in 1968 and 1984. In 1985, Mitzi and Jack sold their family farm, downsized and moved to Big Rapids. They enjoyed traveling to visit their children in various states, attending Jack's musical festivals and participating in numerous family events. Together, they celebrated their 60-year anniversary of marriage.

She was both complex and very sharp. Very little got past her, even when her children believed themselves so clever. She was knowledgeable about many things, and was remarkably capable until the very end. Her greatest test came after Jack's severe stroke, where she modeled compassion while tirelessly caring for him. Her love and devotion of family was never in question, even during those darker years following her husband's and children's deaths, when she was consumed with sorrow. Her ability to rebound and actively nurture, love and parent her children and grandchildren was a testament to her endurance and strength. Few may have ever understood how difficult that period was for her. She had to struggle to find a way to be in this world without her partner of 60 years and that was very hard for her. She never quit being a mom!

Mitzi and Jack had seven children, Katherine (Daniel) Dysarz, of Canadian Lakes, Kristine (Robert) Doyle, of Holland, John Patrick Burns and Susan Burns, of Canadian Lakes, Sally (Dale) Welborn, John Robert Burns, of Mobile, Ala., and Brigitt (Jack) Enos, of Reed City.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Robert L. and Katherine D. McMasters; her husband’s parents, John B. and Edith K. Burns; her husband, John H. Burns (Jack); son, John Patrick; and daughter, Sally Ilene.

Mitzi leaves behind a legacy of compassion to all she encountered. An ambassador of good will, she routinely bestowed a generous hand to strangers and family alike. Consistent with her life's mission, Mitzi donated her body to the University of Michigan for medical research and the training of future health care providers. A celebration of her life will follow at a time and place to be determined. Her devotion to and love for her family has enriched the lives of generations to come. Mitzi will be sorely missed, but cheerfully and honorably remembered.

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