Pearl Marie BurnsSeptember 7, 1922 ~ April 18, 2017 (age 94)
Pearl Marie Burns
September 7, 1922-April 17, 2017
Pearl was raised in the railroad town of Las Vegas, New Mexico. Perhaps she got her determination from her mother, Florence Viola St. Clair, who was married, a mother and a widow at age 19. She might have gotten her height and strength from her father, Earl Hall, a fireman with the Rio Grande Railroad waskilled in a train derailment in 1923. And maybe she got her kindness from her step-father Dan Pitt, who raised her and her younger sister, Ila Pitt Jenson.
In her youth, Pearl enjoyed playing the saxophone in the Las Vegas High School marching band. Being an independent spirit, she was probably frustrated being only able to play half-court basketball, a limitation put upon the women of her time. She enjoyed being creative, such as when she used her excellent seamstress skills to make dolls to sell while in high school.
Her intelligence was put to good use when she attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She expressed her strong American spirit when, with the advent of World War II and the growing need for nurses, she put her degree on hold, married, moved to Denver, and earned her nursing degree. She was a working mother before it was in vogue, raising her two sons, Robert Mohr and his younger brother Thomas (Tommy) Mohr while working as a visiting nurse. Her fortitude was surely tested when caring for children in the iron lung while working at Children’s Hospital, and later when her own son Tommy contracted polio at age five, and even the iron lung couldn’t save him.
She lived briefly in Clinton, Illinois, where she worked as a nurse at Revere Ware Copper and Brass. Later, she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she subsequently married Floyd “Burley” Burns and had sons, Gerald “Jerry” Burns, William ”Bill” Burns, and daughter, Candace Burns Ballantyne. It was during this time that she worked her favorite job, labor and delivery at Presbyterian Hospital, where she delivered a baby in the back seat of a car, much to the surprise of the father!She moved up through the ranks and eventually became the director of nursing at Anna Kaseman Hospital, where she retired in 1980, but not before returning to the University of New Mexico in the early 70’s, earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. When the love of her life, Burley, predeceased her in 1981, she began to sprout wings.
Pearl continued her lifelong passions (bridge playing, reading, sewing, gardening, and knitting), but then began adding other talents to her skillset (painting, weaving, quilting, and crocheting). It didn’t take much encouragement from her friends to get her outside more and combine her love of learning and nature. She increased her knowledge of the grasses, trees,bushes, and especially the wildflowers while walking and hiking with the “Happy Hoofers”, an informal women’s hiking group. That transitioned into backpacking with the “Meadow Muffins”, men and women who ascended New Mexico’s higher peaks and Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks, and descended into the Grand Canyon and slot canyons. At 64, she hiked Uncompahgre, her first 14,000 peak. Year after year, she continued to add more peaks to her growing list, until her last 14er at age 83.
In middle age, she enjoyed downhill skiing with her children,and camping with her family. With each year, she spread her wings a little more, and in later in life she added cross country skiing, snowshoeing and white water rafting to her accomplishments, and traveled internationally with hiking friend Leona Dennis to New Zealand, Australia, South America and Europe.
As her knowledge of native plants and wildflowers grew, she began to lead wildflower hikes for the Sandia Ranger Districtand Albuquerque Open Space and she began to soar! In 2003, she was flown to Washington, D.C. to accept the National Forest Service Volunteer of the Year Award. In 2005, she co-authored the wildflower section of the “Field Guide to the Sandia Mountains” with Tom Ferguson and Jeanette Buffett. In 2011,she and Larry Littlefield co-authored Wildflowers of the Sandia and Manzano Mountains of Central New Mexico. In 2015, theycollaborated again on “Wildflowers of the Northern and Central Mountains of New Mexico”.
Pearl is survived by her sons, Robert Mohr; Jerry (Liz) Burns;and Bill (Marcia) Burns; daughter Candace Ballantyne (Bill Wharton); sister Ila Jenson; grandsons Tommy Burns; Bryan (Lynell) Burns, Jason (Stephanie) and Scott (Kayci) Burns; Burley (Deidra) Burns; Clint (Stacie) Burns; Garrett Burns; Dustin (Taylor) Burns, Kelly (Erin) Ballantyne, Jeff Ballantyne, in addition to the blessing of 6 great grandsons and FINALLY 7 great granddaughters.
There will be celebrations of life in Denver on Saturday April 22, 2017 at 10:00 am at New Denver Church, 700 Bonnie Brae Blvd., Denver 80209 and in Albuquerque on Saturday, April 29, 2017 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the administrative building of the Sandia Ranger District Office in Tijeras, New Mexico.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Albuquerque BioPark Botanic Garden, Friends of the Sandia Mountains or the organization of their choice.