It is with great sadness that the family of Richard Donald “Don” Burns, age 81, announces his peaceful passing on Friday, December 10, 2021, in Kaufman, TX. Don was born in Newton, MA, to Donald Burns and Elsie Nichols, and an older sister, Barbara Johnson, who all preceded him in death. Don graduated from Needham High School and attended Syracuse University on a football scholarship where his roommate was future Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis. He majored in Industrial Design with minors in Planning, Architecture and Applied Engineering (BFA, ID 1963) and pledged Phi Gamma Delta.
Don was a former member of The Rotary Club of Dallas, a Stephen Ministry lay leader for the First United Methodist Church in Rockwall, a member and volunteer of the Becker United Methodist Church, served on the City of Rockwall Citizens Planning Task Force, was involved in the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and a Board member of the Becker, TX Community Center. Following his retirement in 2015, he often consulted on select special development projects alongside his wife and participated in CoreNet Global and Industrial Asset Management Council professional conferences.
Since his favorite pastime was sailing, he loved spending time with the family at his ocean front home in Falmouth on Cape Cod and racing against other yacht clubs. Don loved cruising the waters between the northshore of Boston and Newport in his sloop with his best friend Linda, his wife of 40 years. Together they traveled throughout the world, hunted, played golf, and took RV trips. He enjoyed life on the ranch in Becker, where he resided in the Victorian farmhouse he renovated, and the time spent in the woodworking shop of his dreams.
Early in his career, Don served as Contract Manager, NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (Houston) in public outreach where he escorted the Seven Original Astronauts to media events, major international exhibitions and air shows, and special meetings throughout the world. He went on to work for Atkins and Merrill, Inc. in Massachusetts where he worked on major design projects including the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (Huntsville, AL), New England Aquarium (Boston), and the Ontario Science Center (Canada). During the 1970’s, Don was Director of Museum and Specialized Exhibits for Target Communications (now Giltspur) where he worked on exhibitions for The Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, The National Aquarium (Baltimore), Edison National Historic Park, and the Boston Museum of Science.
Don would spend the next 15 years based out of Dallas, designing and building major interpretive exhibitions throughout the U.S., including for the Museum of Science & Industry (Chicago), the Fort Worth Museum of Science & Industry, The Franklin Institute Science Museum (Philadelphia), the National Park Services’ Acadian Cultural Centers in Louisiana, the State of Texas Sesquicentennial Exhibition at the Hall of State in Fair Park, the Museum of African-American Life & Culture in Dallas, and the Museum of Science and Discovery in Fort Lauderdale. One of his more memorable projects was supporting his wife, Linda, then the Director of the museum, to transform the former Dallas Health & Science Museum in Dallas into The Science Place (now Perot Museum of Nature and Science) and came up with its popular name.
In 1996, Don began what would become a 19-year commitment to the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department for which he would later be recognized for his distinguished service best described in the following excerpt from the official City of Dallas August 2015 Resolution. “Over his career with the Dallas Park and Recreation Department, R. Donald Burns oversaw the design and construction of recreation centers, spray grounds, and helped to manage and implement the Fair Park Interpretative Program.
R. Donald Burns’ legacy is firmly established at the Dallas Zoo, where he worked on many projects, including the Chimpanzee Exhibit, the Front Entry and Lemur Exhibit, the Interactive Bird Exhibit, the Tiger Exhibit, the Carousel, Bug U, Snout Route, the Gorilla Holding Building, the Lazerte Family Children’s Zoo, Phases 1 – 4 of the Storm Drainage upgrades, and oversaw the Zoo Wetlands project design.
R. Donald Burns began work in 2002 on the Feasibility Study and Master Plan for the Trinity Interpretive Center, The Trinity Equestrian Center and Associated Components and oversaw the development of a burning landfill into the Trinity River Audubon Center that is the first Gold LEED-rated building constructed by the Park and Recreation Department and is a wonderful environmental and educational center.”
Don’s final project with the City was to oversee the planning, design and construction of the Trinity Equestrian Center now known as the Texas Horse Park, a project that was completed in 2014 prior to his retirement in August of 2015. In the final section of the Resolution: “WHEREAS, R. Donald Burns has served as a colleague, mentor, teacher, leader and manager and will be remembered for his professionalism, high standards, self-motivation, organizational skills, work ethic, commitment and undying desire to serve the City of Dallas. Now, Therefore, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE PARK AND RECREATION BOARD AND DEPARTMENT OF THE CITY OF DALLAS: Section 1. That sincere appreciation is extended to R. Donald Burns for his years of devoted and tireless work so generously given to the Park and Recreation Department and the citizens of Dallas. Section 2. That the Park and Recreation Board commends R. Donald Burns for his distinguished service and wishes his continued success and happiness.”
In addition to this legacy, Don will be forever remembered by his beloved wife of 40 years, Linda, a corporate site selection & incentives consultant for WDG Consulting and their family company, Burns Development Group; his sons Christopher and Craig Burns of Massachusetts and sister Lynne Egan; grandson Brandon Egan (Fort Worth) and granddaughter Mrs. Mallory Kunz and husband Kai (Connecticut); Brother-in-law Kenneth Clines & wife Kerry (Dallas); nephews Kevin Clines & wife Nori (Eustace), Rick Clines (Garland), and Seth Clines & wife Lindsey and children (Richardson); by aunts, uncles, and cousins; friends and colleagues; and his ‘best buddy’ Jake.
Don was very proud of his Scottish heritage and proudly wore his Ancient Campbell Tartan or Robert Burns check to Scottish Games, special dinners, and Burns Night. A tribute to his life and this heritage will be held on Saturday, January 15, 2022, at 11:00 AM at Becker United Methodist Church, 7901 County Road 4030, Kaufman, TX 75142 (located 3 miles east off U.S. 175), followed by lunch next door at the Becker, TX Community Center. Should friends and family desire, contributions may be made in his honor to the Pan Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to helping insured people living with life-threatening diseases with the costs for costly prescribed essential medications (panfoundation.org).