People come in and out of your life. Some stay with you forever. That’s what happened when I met Russ Burns. Recently a new neighbor of Russ’s described him as being “instantly likable”. I can’t think of a better way to explain why he and I became such close friends. He loved greeting strangers with gruff remarks to see how they reacted. His first words to me were “Don’t you know how to drive?” Some might take this as a challenge but luckily I saw through his bluster and soon we were working side by side as we cooked up a big breakfast for a bunch of hungry campers.
Camping was something Russ and his wife Laverne have enjoyed for many years with a Good Sam Club based out of Riverside, California. They call themselves the Kountry Kampers. The membership includes over two dozen of the nicest people you would ever want to meet. Russ Burns served as their president for 2013 and 2014.
When I’m asked by people what was my relationship to Russ Burns, I usually reply “it’s complicated.” You see, Russ has a brother Butch who lives in Arizona (Actually he had 10 brothers and 4 sisters). However, Butch Burns was married to my late sister and so we started out as quasi brother-in-laws. That didn’t last long and soon we found ourselves referring to each other as brothers.
Russell Eugene Burns, and he hated that middle name, was born on April 2, 1945 to Foster and Flora Burns in Rockford, Illinois. His surviving relatives include his wife, LaVerne, his brothers, Butch, Fred, Larry, and Dewey Jr., his sisters, Sylvia, Sandra, and Lydia, and a daughter, Rachael. There are also many nieces and nephews that will miss Russ.
Russ was a graduate of Marana High School in Arizona where he played on the football team and did some FFA judging. Russ was also very proud of his military service with the U.S. Army and he was an advocate of Veteran’s affairs and benefits. He truly was a patriot and always flew the American flag where he lived or camped.
Russ loved building and working on old cars. He built several hot rods and helped restore an old fire engine in Lake Elsinore. He once donated a 1948 ford pickup truck to a charity sale to benefit Veterans.
He was a proud Step-Dad to LaVerne’s son, Daniel. Daniel was a special child that needed special care. Russ never hesitated to help provide that care and he showered lots of love on Daniel and LaVerne’s other children.
Russ was a successful businessman and he logged in over a million miles of accident free trucking. At one time he was the CEO of Burgess Trucking in Los Angeles. His leadership skills were evident in everything he undertook.
In recent years Russ was fighting conditions that were the result of his military service in Vietnam. Exposure to the chemical, Agent Orange, had weakened his heart to the point where it was only functioning at a mere nine percent. VA doctors were amazed that he was able to continue his struggle for so many months with his heart performing so weakly. Just like everything else he did in his lifetime, he fought for his life with every bit of strength he had in him.
Before his passing Russ accomplished a long time goal of converting to Catholicism with Fra David from Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside.
I will miss my friend and brother, Russell E. Burns.
As reading this it gave me Goosebumps I also was married to a Russell Eugene Burns and he also did not like his middle name. My Russ was born in 1952 on swans Island Maine he passed August 23rd 2019. His passion in life was lobster fishing and working on vehicles. He was one of the best men I ever known.