Wendell Burns Obituary

Wendell Robert Burns
Wendell Robert Burns

June 8, 1926 - January 11, 2021
Born in Brookston, Pennsylvania
Resided in Chugiak, Alaska


An honest man here lies at rest,
As e’er God with His image blest:
The friend of man, the friend of truth;
The friend of age, and guide of youth;
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d
Few heads with knowledge so inform’d:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.
-Epitaph of my own Friend by Robert Burns

Wendell Robert Burns left this earth on January 11, 2021. He was an extraordinary man— Lover of Betty, his daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren; a scholar; cloud reader; Mr. Fixit; outdoorsman; awesome pirate; mountaineer; magician; animal lover; musician by ear; a very wise man; whirligig artisan; skorper maker; Alaskan McGyver; amazing storyteller (fact and fiction); sailboat dreamer; true friend; always honest and brave; a pioneer and our hero.

Wendell was born on June 8,1926 in Brookston, Pennsylvania. He was the first child of Gladys Marie (Carlson) and Arthur (Archie) Robert Burns. He attended 1st-8th grades in the small village schoolhouse, graduating from Sheffield High School in 1944.

Wendell enlisted in the U.S. Army the day he graduated and as he told it, “My rich Uncle sent me to Europe on the Queen Mary and everything was going real good, until they put a gun in my hand!” He was an infantry sharpshooter, who luckily didn’t see much action while stationed in northern Germany at the end of World War II.

He was an adventurer who jumped at the chance to work for the CAA (FAA) in the wilds of Alaska. He traveled up the Alcan Highway with a buddy, in 1951 and fell in love with The Great Land. He was a Jack-of-all trades, becoming a traveling maintenance mechanic at FAA stations around the state for 30 years.

After marrying his beloved Betty in 1956, he brought her, Dixie and Debbie up the Alcan to begin their lives together in Anchorage. His youngest daughter, Cecile, was born in 1957, to complete the family.

Even though he and Betty spent many winters seeing America in their RVs after retiring, they always came home for the northern summers. When Betty passed away, Dad would still visit Arizona, until the trip became too difficult for him.

After the onset of dementia, he and his family decided that he needed to live in a safe place, where he could socialize (and entertain) the staff and residents. We found that special place in the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center. The assisted living facility took wonderful care of him for 4 1/2 years and welcomed the entire family to visit and be a part of his life there.

We were allowed to visit him in person again-after a year of window and doorway meetings, due to COVID-when he went into hospice care. Those days were precious to our family and we three girls were able to be with him at the time of his passing.

Wendell was preceded in death by his parents Archie and Marie, his wife Betty and many dear friends and family.

Those left to honor him always are: daughters-Dixie (Brian) Gillespie, Debbie (Robert) McCree, Cecile (Mark) Sherlock; grandchildren-Stephanie (Ryan) Conger, Corey (Kerry) Gillespie, MacKenzie (Dan) Burlingham, Misty (Marcquis) Pulliam, Austin and Tyler Judevine; great grandchildren-Lucy and Jack Conger, Zooey and Max Gillespie, RaShae and Cassius Pulliam and Penelope Burlingham. He is also survived by his much loved younger brothers Larry (Mary) Burns and Fred (Lewellyn) Burns as well as many cherished nieces and nephews.

The family would like to send our heartfelt thanks to the loving staff of the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center-particularly his special angels Laura and Heidi. Also our thanks to Megan Engler Engeberg PA-C for her incredible medical care, the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Dept. for their valued assistance and to Frontier Hospice for their compassion and guidance-especially to Nurse Brooke.

There will be no memorial at this time. We hope to have a celebration of Wendell’s life when we’re able to all meet again, safely.
Those wishing to make a donation in his name can choose their favorite charity.

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Funeral Home
Cremation Society of Alaska
1306 E 74th Avenue
Anchorage, AK United States 99518