They will gather at The First Church this afternoon to remember William Russell Burns Jr., who died last week at 86.
He was one of a kind.
Bill Burns served on both the City Council and School Committee, but what friends will remember most is the gruff voice, the stories and the gentle soul.
Bill Burns was a character. A lovable, down-to-earth, mischievous, wonderful character.
He was a Yankee, but never happier than when he stopped at Steve’s Market in the old Italian neighborhood to mingle with friends.
He was a man who loved dogs, none more than Baxter, his beloved, if overfed, black Labrador retriever. Some say he never got over Baxter’s death.
And he loved traditions. On Sunday mornings, well into his golden years, he could be found on Chestnut Street playing goalie in the never-ending street hockey game. His late brother, Jere, affectionately called him “the sieve.”
Maybe, above all, he was a man who loved madcap adventures. He led annual sojourns into the wilds of Maine and once, well into his 70s, went searching for a crashed plane the FAA couldn’t find in the hills of New Hampshire. He didn’t find the plane and returned covered in cuts and scratches.
When you saw Bill Burns coming down the street, you smiled because your day was about to get a little brighter. What better epitaph than that.
By now, everyone must have heard about skydiver Felix Baumgartner’s death-defying leap from a balloon 24 miles above Earth on Sunday and his safe landing in a New Mexico desert.
But did you know a Salem High graduate has a connection to the history-making event?
Craig Mielcarz, Class of 1999, designed the GPS that tracked Baumgartner during his fall through the skies and allowed helicopters to get in position to photograph his descent and landing.