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John Burns, father of Geneva mayor, dies at 81

'Everyone referred to him as Grandpa John'

John J. Burns, 81, father of Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, died July 17, 2019
John J. Burns, 81, father of Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, died July 17, 2019

GENEVA – John J. Burns, 81, the father of Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, died July 17 at his home in Geneva, according to his obituary.

Kevin Burns said his father apparently died in his sleep.

“This was a guy who never left a party early,” Kevin Burns said. “He left this party without any forewarning.”

John Burns enjoyed every social, athletic or civic event that was possible to attend, his son said.

“He loved being part of the crowd that was celebrating something or cheering something on or getting something accomplished,” Kevin Burns said. “One thing we talked about among the siblings is that I think his proudest accomplishment – without a doubt – was being known as Grandpa John. Whether it be our kids, high school students, friends of ours –everyone referred to him as Grandpa John."

John Burns and his wife moved to Geneva in 1974. He had worked in sales his whole professional life.

He loved Geneva High School sports, as he and his wife were founding members of the Geneva All-Sports Boosters Club. He coached girls softball for the Geneva Park District and served as president of the TriCity Football Association.

Kevin Burns said his father went to all his four children’s sporting events, whether it was baseball, football, basketball, volleyball or softball.

“He was always in there in the stands,” Kevin Burns said. “It gave you an extra sense of pride that there was one fan cheering you on. And if you had a bad day, he was there to support you.”

Brian Burns, who teaches English at Geneva High School, said his father was known for his undying devotion for everything about the Geneva Vikings sports teams.

“He went to as many games as he could possibly attend,” Brian Burns said. “He supported the guys’ sports, the girls’ sports.”

John Burns attended all his grandchildren’s sporting events, the neighbors’ and friends’ children’s games, even attending the high school girls’ teams playoffs and championship games.

“I would call him on Friday night and say, ‘I’m going to the baseball game, you want to go?’ And he would say, ‘Sure.’ … He was always there. You could always find Grandpa John. And he was never alone at games. People would say to him, ‘Hey Grandpa John!’”

Kevin Burns said one of the best lessons both his parents taught their children was that their community was as important as advancing their careers.

“No matter how busy their lives were – family and career – they contributed to the community,” Kevin Burns said.

While his mother had served on the Geneva Plan Commission, John Burns had been a member of the Geneva Park District Board of trustees and a member of the Geneva Park District Foundation for about 20 years.

Steve Persinger, who was executive director of the Geneva Park District while Burns was board president, credited him with achieving major recreational advancements in the district.

“John was a wonderful man,” Persinger said. “He was always so kind and he was also a natural board president. Meetings started on time and he had a good business sense.”

Persinger credited Burns’ leadership in getting the new Sunset Pool built, the purchase of land for Peck Farm Park and the bike trail system.

“John had a lot of involvement with those facilities when they were purchased and developed,” Persinger said. “He has a baseball field at Peck Farm Park named for him.”

Visitation for John Burns will be held from 1 to 7 p.m. July 21 at Malone Funeral Home, 324 E. State St., Geneva.

Funeral Prayers will be held at 9:30 a.m. July 22 at Malone Funeral Home, proceeding to St. Peter Catholic Church, 1891 Kaneville Road, Geneva, for the celebration of Funeral Mass at 10:30 a.m.

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